US defensive contractors were the focus of a recent U.N. report that said the use of private security guards like the ones involved in the shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians amounts to a new form of mercenaries.
The U.S. government rejected the report by a five-member panel of independent U.N. human rights experts and defended the contractors saying they were performing military duties while working as security guards. Blackwater USA guards were responsible for the deaths of 17 civilians in Baghdad last month which highlights the risks of using such contractors according to panel chairman, Jose Luis Gomez del Prado of Spain.
U.S. Mission to U.N. offices in Geneva issued a statement Wednesday denying the security guards were mercenaries. The spokesman said, "Accusations that U.S. government-contracted security guards, of whatever nationality, are mercenaries is inaccurate and demeaning to men and women who put their lives on the line to protect people and facilities every day."
Use of mercenaries is discouraged in international rules of conduct in war but the hiring of foreign soldiers by one country for the use in a third country is specifically illegal for 30 countries that ratified a 1989 treaty. The U.S. and Iraq are among the rest of the countries that never signed the accord.
There has been a "tremendous increase" in the number of defense contractors offering security services in the middle east, many of which work for the U.S. State and Defense departments in Afghanistan and Iraq. The report by the U.N. council is set to release next month.
A panel composed of U.S. and Iraqi representatives were created to review the practices of security companies. Congress has also opened inquiries into the role of the contractors and multiple U.S. investigations in the Baghdad shooting are underway. The panel has been studying the use of contractors for two years and so far has found contractors were being hired from all over the world.
Panel experts visited Honduras, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Fiji to investigate the recruiting and training processes of the private contractors.
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