Private Military and Security Companies
The Costs of Outsourcing War
People working for private military and security companies (PMSCs) have been accused of engaging in a number of human rights violations including the abuse and torture of detainees, shootings and killings of innocent civilians, destruction of property, sexual harassment and rape, human trafficking in the recruitment of third-country nationals, weapons proliferation, and participation in renditions. Amnesty International USA strives to ensure that PMSCs complicit in human rights violations are brought to justice and seeks to put adequate regulations and laws in place to improve oversight and accountability of the industry. Through legislative actions, corporate engagement, dialogue, direct actions, and participation in multi-stakeholder initiatives and coalitions, Amnesty works to ensure that PMSCs adhere to international human rights and humanitarian law in all of their operations around the world.
As the United States engages in the “war on terror,” it is outsourcing key security and military support functions, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, to private companies to carry out the work. The number of contractors now exceeds the number of military personnel. The work that is contracted out to companies ranges from logistical support to security for U.S. government personnel and reconstruction projects, to training military and security personnel, to operating and maintaining weapons systems. But the contracted companies have also served in more sensitive roles, such as interrogation and translating during questioning of alleged terrorist suspects.
In this environment, allegations of contractor involvement in serious human rights violations – including participation by contractors in the torture at Abu Ghraib and shooting deaths of civilians – have emerged, yet officials in the previous Bush administration and the current Obama administration have made virtually no effort to hold contractors accountable or compensate victims. Private contractors have committed crimes with impunity. Lack of adequate regulation is only part of the explanation.
The political will to oversee military and security companies and hold them to account for human rights violations must be fostered. Amnesty is striving to raise awareness of the U.S. government’s use of private military and security companies and to advocate for an end to their impunity. Through legislative actions, corporate engagement, dialogue, direct actions, and participation in multi-stakeholder initiatives and coalitions, Amnesty works to ensure that PMSCs adhere to international human rights and humanitarian law in all of their operations around the world.