by David Rohde at Rueters November 16, 2012
Amid the politicking, there’s an overlooked cause of the Benghazi tragedy
For conservatives, the Benghazi scandal is a Watergate-like presidential cover-up. For liberals, it a fabricated Republican witch-hunt. For me, Benghazi is a call to act on an enduring problem that both parties ignore.
One major overlooked cause of the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans is we have underfunded the State Department and other civilian agencies that play a vital role in our national security.
Instead of building up cadres of skilled diplomatic security guards, we have bought them from the lowest bidder, trying to acquire capacity and expertise on the cheap. Benghazi showed how vulnerable that makes us.
Now, I’m not arguing that this use of contractors was the sole cause of the Benghazi tragedy, but I believe it was a primary one. Let me explain.
The slapdash security that killed Stevens, technician Sean Smith and CIA guards Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty started with a seemingly inconsequential decision by Libya’s new government. After the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, Libya’s interim government barred armed private security firms – foreign and domestic – from operating anywhere in the country.
Memories of the abuses by foreign mercenaries, acting for the brutal Qaddafi regime, prompted the decision, according to State Department officials.
Once the Libyans took away the private security guard option, it put enormous strain on a little-known State Department arm, the Diplomatic Security Service. This obscure agency has been responsible for protecting American diplomatic posts around the world since 1916.
Though embassies have contingents of Marines, consulates and other offices do not. And the missions of Marines, in fact, are to destroy documents and protect American government secrets. It is the Diplomatic Security agents who are charged with safeguarding the lives of American diplomats.
Today, roughly 900 Diplomatic Security agents guard 275 American embassies and consulates around the globe. That works out to a whopping four agents per facility.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, the State Department relied on hundreds of security contractors to guard American diplomats. At times, they even hired private security guards to protect foreign leaders.
After Afghan President Hamid Karzai narrowly survived a 2002 assassination attempt, the State Department hired security guards from DynCorp, a military contractor, to guard him. Their aggressiveness in and around the presidential palace, however, angered Afghan, American and European officials. As soon as Afghan guards were trained to protect Karzai, DynCorp was let go.
But the State Department’s dependence on contractors for security remained. And Benghazi epitomized this Achilles’ heel.
Reuters Tripoli June 4, 2012
A Libyan military court on Monday handed down long prison terms to a group of men from the former Soviet Union accused of serving as mercenaries for ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi in last year’s war.
One Russian man, deemed the group’s coordinator, was sentenced to life in prison, the court heard. Another Russian, three Belarussians and 19 Ukrainians were handed sentences of 10 years with hard labor. They had denied the charges.
The military trial was the first of its kind in Libya since a popular revolt ousted Gaddafi last year. The new government is trying to prove its judicial process is robust enough to try high-profile Gaddafi loyalists including his son Saif al-Islam.
“This is the worst kind of sentence,” said Belarussian ambassador Anatoly Stepus who was present at the hearing. “We thought that even if they were sentenced it would not be so strict. They have suffered a lot.”
Faiza Patel, Chair of the Human Rights Council’s Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, told correspondents today about the Working Group’s visits to Equatorial Guinea, South Africa and Iraq.
During a press conference at Headquarters, Ms. Patel explained that the Working Group, which consists of five independent experts, covered the activities of mercenaries, as well as those of private military and security companies. Yesterday, she had presented the Working Group’s report to the General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural). She said the Working Group had visited Equatorial Guinea and South Africa in 2010 and Iraq in 2011. (See Press Release GA/SHC/4023.)
Equatorial Guinea had been the site of a coup by mercenaries in 2004, many of whom had come from South Africa, she said, which had led to prosecutions in Equatorial Guinea, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The Government of Equatorial Guinea had also alleged an attempted coup in 2009. The Working Group had been unable to verify those claims, but found that that there were credible reports that those arrested had been tortured and were denied fundamental due process rights in their trials. Four convicted persons were summarily executed one day after the Working Group left.
“I would go to Libya or any other country to fight for a good salary,” he told SETimes.
Ever since turmoil erupted in February, there have been reports of Balkan mercenaries in the north African country. Media reports last week claimed that rebel fighters executed a large group of fighters-for-hire in the city of Misrata, including nine Croats, 12 Serbs and an unknown number of Bosniaks.
That story remains unconfirmed, and details about the overall number of Balkan mercenaries active in the country are hard to come by. Still, military operations experts say they have enough data to form a rough estimate.
“According to my information, about 250 persons from Serbia are located in Libya,” military analyst Ljubodrag Stojadinovic told SETimes. He said several hundred well trained troops emerged from the Balkan wars, and are willing to use their expertise.
The mercenaries are driven by the promise of monetary gain, and not by politics or ideology, Stojadinovic added
France denied on Monday that it had mercenaries in Libya, after Muammar Gaddafi’s loyalists said they had captured 17 foreigners — some British and French — in the fight for a town still held by the ousted leader’s followers.
The claim by Gaddafi’s spokesman Moussa Ibrahim that foreign security personnel had been captured in the battle for the pro-Gaddafi bastion Bani Walid could not be verified and no immediate proof was presented.
It comes as the new authorities are facing stark reversals on the battlefield and in the political arena.
Nearly a month after Gaddafi was driven from power, his loyalist holdouts have beaten back repeated assaults by National Transitional Council forces at Bani Walid and Gaddafi’s home city of Sirte. NTC fighters have been sent fleeing in disarray after failing to storm Gaddafi bastions.
The NTC, still based in the eastern city of Benghazi, has faced questions about whether it can unify a country divided on tribal and local lines. A long-promised attempt to set up a more inclusive interim government fell apart overnight.
“A group was captured in Bani Walid consisting of 17 mercenaries. They are technical experts and they include consultative officers,” Gaddafi spokesman Ibrahim said on Syria-based Arrai television, which has backed Gaddafi.
“Most of them are French, one of them is from an Asian country that has not been identified, two English people and one Qatari.”
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, in New York to attend a U.N. meeting, told journalists: “We have no French mercenaries in Libya.”
UN News Centre 14 September 2011 –
The three countries present different aspects of the problem, with Iraq a major theatre of operations by private military and security companies; South Africa a major source of people with extensive military skills and experience unwilling or unable to find jobs since the end of apartheid in 1994; and Equatorial Guinea the scene of a 2004 coup attempt involving mercenaries.
The panel, whose full title is the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, noted in its report on Iraq that incidents involving private military and security companies there had dropped since the killing of 17 civilians and wounding of 20 others in Nissour Square in Baghdad by employees of the United States security company Blackwater in 2007.
But it added that Iraq continues to grapple with the grant of legal immunity extended to private security contractors by US authorities after the 2003 invasion, preventing prosecutions in Iraqi courts while the case against the alleged perpetrators is still pending in US courts.
“The Working Group is deeply concerned about the lack of accountability for violations committed between 2003 and 2009 and recalls that the victims of such violations and their families are still waiting for justice,” the report said, calling on Iraq to clarify urgently whether a provision it signed with the US in 2009 removing immunity of some private foreign security contractors covers all contractors employed by the US Government and is applied in Iraqi courts.
On South Africa the panel noted that legislation passed in 1998 has not had a significant impact on the private military and security industry, and new laws adopted after the attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea, in which several South African mercenaries were involved are not yet in force.
“While such legislation seeks to address some of the problems encountered previously, it remains to be seen whether the new legislation will effectively regulate the provision of security services in areas of armed conflict,” it said, calling for accountability mechanisms for private military and security companies at the domestic level as well as effective remedies for potential victims of human rights violations involving such companies.
The report on Equatorial Guinea noted that the 2004 coup attempt was the most widely reported incident clearly involving mercenaries, some of them employees or former employees of private military and security companies from several countries, illustrating “possible close and disturbing links” between mercenaries and such companies.
This makes the monitoring of such links all the more necessary, it said, calling on the Government to adopt laws to regulate the activities of such companies and their employees.
Turning to an armed attack on the presidential palace in Malabo, the capital, by alleged mercenaries in 2009, the panel regretted the authorities’ lack of transparency and lack of cooperation extended during its visit to the country.
“The Working Group urges the Government to provide explanations as to how the four men on trial for their alleged involvement in the attack were brought back from Benin to Equatorial Guinea,” it said, strongly condemning their execution after a summary trial “that severely lacked due process and was carried out so promptly as to deny the four men all possibility of appeal.”
It urged the Government to make available to the public full information on all judgments rendered in the criminal cases relating to the attack.
“Since all mercenaries should be held accountable for their actions, the Working Group recommends that anyone who is accused of involvement in a mercenary-related incident be tried by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal and in compliance with international human rights standards,” the report concluded.
“The Working Group also recommends that anyone accused of involvement in a mercenary-related incident be treated in accordance with international human rights standards, in particular the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
adnkronos International Belgrade, 13 Sept. (AKI) –
Belgrade, 13 Sept. (AKI) – Libyan rebels who control most of the country after defeating Muammar Gaddafi’s military, have executed 85 foreign mercenaries, including 12 Serbs, in the city of Misrata alone, Serbian media reported on Tuesday.
Belgrade daily Press said the executions took place in the state insurance building in Misrata after it was taken by the forces loyal to rebels’ National Transitional Council (NTC). Among the killed mercenaries, who fought on Gaddafi’s side, were also nine Croats, 11 Ukrainians and ten Colombians, the paper said.
The report was also confirmed by Zagreb daily Vecernji list whose correspondent in Misrata, Hasan Hajdar Dijab, said many mercenaries had been killed in fighting, but those arrested were shot in the head.
It quoted a rebel commander in Misrata Abdelaziz Madini as saying “those killed weren’t soldiers but executioners who came here to kill for money”. He said other mercenaries who surrender would have a fair trial.
Balkans military analysts said they were not surprised by the report, because hundreds of veterans of 1990s Balkans war have sought engagement abroad after the end of the Balkan wars in 1995 and fought for money in various African and Asian countries.
In a related development, the human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) said in its latest report that both sides in the Libyan conflict committed crimes, especially Gaddafi’s forces, but “crimes committed by rebels weren’t negligible either”, it added.
Amnesty International has called on Libya’s National Transitional Council to take steps to prevent human rights abuses by anti-Gaddafi forces
UN News Center 8 July 2011 –
Mr. Gómez said there is a legal “gap” between recognized international conventions on the use of mercenaries, and the control of private security companies that are often used by governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The Working Group had already submitted proposed legislation to the General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva which were being discussed at the expert level.
Mr. Gómez said that many countries had proposed self regulation and codes of conduct, but the panel is proposing a specific international instrument that would be agreed on by national governments.
“What we are proposing is a binding instrument for States that is very clear” to include licensing, national and international monitoring of activities and civil and criminal laws regulating them.
The instrument, he said, would also have measures specifically to deal with victims.
Noting that four years after the killing of 17 civilians in Nissour Square in Iraq, the case against the alleged perpetrators is still pending in United States courts, he said “The victims don’t receive justice.”
The panel visited Iraq last month and urged the Iraqi Government to prioritize the adoption of legislation regulating security companies that has been pending since 2008.
“While US troops are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of the year, security contractors are there to stay. The urgency to regulate their activities couldn’t be greater,” he said today.
Alexander Nikitin, a member of the Working Group, said the different methods of control for private security companies in Iraq and Afghanistan highlighted the need for international standards.
The Group reports to the Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity
By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, Associated Press June 14, 2011
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — A notorious mercenary known as “Bob Marley” who is accused of leading massacres in Ivory Coast to help that country’s tyrannical leader secure his slipping grip on power is in police custody in his native Liberia, officials said Tuesday.
National Liberian Police Spokesman George Bardu said the self-proclaimed general was arrested several weeks ago along with about 10 of his fighters in the pocket of southeastern Liberia where he went to hide after the fall of his employer, Ivory Coast’s strongman Laurent Gbagbo.
Marley was the leader of the mercenaries hired to help Gbagbo, who lost last year’s presidential election and then used force to stay in office for five violent months. Early in the conflict, Gbagbo recruited mercenaries from Liberia because he did not trust the regular army whose soldiers defected en masse when troops aiming to install democratically elected president Alassane Ouattara fought their way to the capital.
Liberia National Police Chief Marc Amblard said Marley, whose nom de guerre is a reference to his voluminous dreadlocks, and the other men have been charged with ‘mercenarism.’
Nelson Chineh, the magistrate in whose court the men are to face the charge, said they had been transported to Liberia’s capital of Monrovia after being initially held in Zwedru.
An official close to the investigation who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the press said that Marley was released soon after being arrested. He was re-arrested in late May after Ivorian officials put pressure on their Liberian counterparts.
“The arrest of Bob Marley sends a strong signal, marking a first step towards justice,” said Matt Wells, a researcher in the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, and the author of a report on the crimes committed in Ivory Coast. “We credibly implicated him in leading massacres in which a total of more than 100 people were executed.”