October 07, 2010
Human Rights First Welcomes Senate Report Calling for "Immediate Aggressive Steps" To Private Security Contractor Reform
Washington, DC – Today, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved a report on private security contractors in Afghanistan that underscores the urgent need to improve contractor oversight in the field as a matter of U.S. national security, according to Human Rights First. The report titled, "Inquiry into the Role and Oversight of Private Security Contractors in Afghanistan" was a result of an in-depth year long process which provides a detailed critical assessment of the role of private security contractors in Afghanistan and "reveals the threat that security contractors operating without adequate U.S. government supervision can pose to the mission in Afghanistan." "The United States has a responsibility and a national security interest to ensure that adequate oversight of contractors exists," said Human Rights First's Melina Milazzo. "This report finds serious gaps in fulfilling that responsibility and concludes that accountability gaps threaten the safety of civilians, U.S. troops and contractors themselves, as well as gravely undermines U.S. military missions." The Senate Committee's inquiry found, in part that: • there are significant gaps in US government oversight of private security contractors in Afghanistan; • the Defense Department has failed to enforce its policies meant to hold private security contractors' accountable and to address serious private security contractor deficiencies; and • failures in vetting, train, and supervision of Defense Department private security contractors are putting US and coalition troops as well as Afghan civilians at risk. The United States increasingly relies on private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan to perform a range of services, from filing paperwork to using deadly force. Private military contractors still outnumber U.S. troops there. As of May 2010, there were over 23,000 armed private security contractors in Afghanistan, and as the Committee's inquiry found, operating with inadequate government oversight. Last month, Human Rights First released State of Affairs: Three Years After Nisoor Square – Accountability and Oversight of U.S. Private Security and Other Contractors, a report concluding that inadequate oversight of private contractors in conflict zones and a failure to hold the contractors legally accountable threatens to compromise U.S. national security and undermine the nation's ongoing military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report assessed the current status of these problems and offered a series of recommendations that aim to improve oversight and accountability of private contractors fielded abroad. For more information about Human Rights First's other work to address this important issue, see http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/our-work/law-and-security/right-to-remedy/pmc/index.asp.