Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Boy, 6, dies after triggering landmine in Bosnia

Huffington Post  August 10. 2012

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Authorities say a 6-year-old boy died when he triggered a landmine while collecting wood with his father in the forests of central Bosnia. The father was wounded in the blast.

Aldina Ahmic, spokeswoman for the police in central Bosnia, says the area the two were exploring Friday is a marked minefield some 50 kilometers north of Sarajevo.

Ahmic says the boy died instantly. His father, 37, is being treated at a Sarajevo hospital for serious shrapnel wounds.

Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war turned it into one of the world’s most mine-infested countries. Clearing the explosive devices is costly and complicated.

According to Bosnia’s Mine Action Center, 1,674 people have been killed or injured by mines since the war ended.

Please see the original here

August 10, 2012 Posted by | Balkans, Civilian Casualties, Demining, ERW, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Explosive Remnants of War, Landmines, Mine Clearance, UXO | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wildfires set off explosions in Bosnia minefield

As firefighters tried to contain two wildfires near an ammunition factory in southern Bosnia on Thursday, one of the blazes began setting off explosions in a minefield left over from the country’s war in the 1990s, officials said.

Associated Press at the Seattle Times  August 9, 2012

KONJIC, Bosnia-Herzegovina —

As firefighters tried to contain two wildfires near an ammunition factory in southern Bosnia on Thursday, one of the blazes began setting off explosions in a minefield left over from the country’s war in the 1990s, officials said.

No one was injured, but the risks of entering the minefield and heavy winds were making it difficult for the firefighters and several military helicopters assisting them to battle the two blazes in the populated area.

Both fires were threatening the Igman ammunition factory on the outskirts of Konjic village from opposite sides, with one of them burning in the heavily mined forest.

“We are doing our best but with the heat and the wind the fires are spreading fast and there is not much we can do about it. It’s all in the minefields,” said Fadil Tatar, commander of Konjic civil protection.

Tatar, who is in charge of coordinating the rescue services and firefighters, said several explosions could be heard Thursday morning as the fire set off some of the mines.

Please see the original and read more here

August 10, 2012 Posted by | Balkans, Bomb Disposal, Civilian Contractors, Demining, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Explosive Remnants of War, Landmines, Mine Clearance, UXO | , , , , | Leave a comment

Bosnians mark 20 years since war began

Al Jazeera  April 6, 2012
Thousands of red chairs, one for each civilian killed in Sarajevo during a near-four-year siege of the capital, are standing empty along the city’s main avenue, as Bosnia and Herzegovina commemorates the 20th anniversary of the start of the country’s war.
People gathered along Marshal Tito Avenue to attend the remembrance ceremony on Friday, where a choir accompanied by a small classical orchestra performed an arrangement of 14 songs, most of them composed during the bloody siege.
“Why are you not here?” they sang to the 11,541 empty seats, victims of the siege by Bosnian Serb forces which became a symbol of the 1992-1995 conflict.
People placed white roses on some of the chairs, while on the smaller seats, symbolising the hundreds of children killed, sat teddy bears, toys and school books.
The ceremonies took place exactly two decades after Bosnian Serb snipers opened fire on thousands of protesters, inflicting the first casualties of the war and triggering a conflict that tore apart the newly independent former Yugoslav republic along ethnic lines.
“The amount of empty chairs shows the horror that we lived through,” Hazima Hadzovic, a resident of the city, told the AFP news agency.
“I just feel the need to come and honour the victims. I lost so many friends I cannot even remember all of their names now,” the 56-year-old said.
Longest city siege
Earlier, Sarajevo residents stopped what they were doing and observed an hour of silence from 2:00pm local time (1200 GMT) to mark the start of the conflict
Many in Sarajevo live daily with the memories of the longest city siege in modern history.
For 44 months, Belgrade-backed Bosnian Serbs shelled the town from the hills above and snipers shot pedestrians at random.
“I mostly recall the near continuous bombardment, the snipers, the dead,” Fuad Novalija, 64, a craftsman in Sarajevo’s old town, told AFP.
“The shells fell when we least expected them. People were killed as they queued for water or bread.”

About 100,000 people were killed during the war, and half the population of 4.4 million fled their homes.

While many of the city’s most symbolic buildings have been restored in the years since the end of the war, Sarajevo still bears the traces of shells and bullets.

Al Jazeera’s Peter Sharp, reporting from Sarajevo, said: “The city displays the scars of the long siege with pride.

“These are a reminder not just of the suffering here but also the resilience of it’s people and their determination to survive

Please see the original with more photos and video here

May 9, 2012 Posted by | Balkans, Civilian Contractors | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

PMC Sexual Violence: It’s Still a Problem

David Isenberg at Huffington Post   January 30, 2012

Also see at David’s blog The PMSC Observer

In one of those rare, “perfect storm” of coincidences, three events converge to provide the topic for this column. First, the latest issue of the in-house magazine, the arriviste named “Journal of International Peace Operations,” published by ISOA, a PMSC trade group, is devoted to the topic of “Women & International Security.”

Since ISOA, like any good trade group, generally tries to dismiss any criticism of its member companies, as being the ravings of liberal hacks in pursuit of a “spicy merc” story, it is interesting to note that the very first article in the issue states:

Companies need to adopt institutional measures to prevent and address cases of misconduct. Appropriate gender training for PMSC personnel, alongside training in international humanitarian law and human rights law – as recommended by the Montreux Document on PMSCs -will help to create a more gender-aware institution, thus preventing human rights abuses and reputation loss. Having clear rules of behaviour and mechanisms to punish individuals responsible for human rights violations will benefit the host populations, individual companies and the industry as a whole.

Second, the recent release in the UK of last year’s movie, The Whistleblower, a fictionalized version of the involvement of DynCorp contractors in sex trafficking and slavery in Bosnia back in the nineties, serves to remind us that despite DynCorp’s rhetoric over the subsequent years not nearly enough has changed.

For those whose memories have faded, employees of DynCorp were accused of buying and keeping women and girls as young as 12 years old in sexual slavery in Bosnia. Perhaps even more shocking is that none of those involved have ever been held accountable within a court of law. The United States subsequently awarded DynCorp a new contract worth nearly $250 million to provide training to the developing Iraqi police force, even though the company’s immediate reaction to reports of the crimes was to fire the whistle-blowers.

As an article in the Jan. 29, Sunday Telegraph noted:

Most disappointing of all was what happened next: several men were sent home, but none was punished further. No future employer will know what these men were guilty of. I asked DynCorp if its guidelines had become more stringent since 2001 and was sent its code of ethics. It states that ‘engaging in or supporting any trafficking in persons […] is prohibited. Any person who violates this standard or fails to report violations of this standard shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.’ So nothing has changed.

By the way, from a strictly observational viewpoint, given other problems DynCorp has had over the years since that took place, from dancing boys in Afghanistan to the recent settling of an EEOC suit regarding sexual harassment of one of its workers in Iraq, DynCorp is the Energizer Bunny of sexual harassment; it just keeps giving and giving and giving; doubtlessly reporters around the world are grateful.

Please read the entire post here

January 30, 2012 Posted by | Afghanistan, Balkans, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Department of Defense, DynCorp, Human Trafficking, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, Politics, Private Military Contractors, Safety and Security Issues, Sexual Assault, Whistleblower | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Contractor Accountability and Human Trafficking at Center of Upcoming Film, The Whistleblower

By NICK SCHWELLENBACH at POGO  August 2, 2011For those looking for more of the backstory on Dyncorp whistleblowers Ben Johnston and Kathyrn Bolkovac, whose tale is the subject of the movie The Whistleblower, (opening in theaters this Friday, see trailer above), I have unearthed material from an interview I conducted with Bolkovac and some related research last year.

The material was chopped from a story I was working on for The Washington Post because of space considerations. Here’s the draft section that was cut:

Roughly a decade ago, two Dyncorp employees reported that some of their fellow employees were involved in the buying and selling of women and young girls in Bosnia. Dyncorp is a U.S. defense and security contractor that held U.S. logistics and security contracts for work in the former Yugoslavia.

Both were fired, retaliation for their whistle-blowing they said.

“The only reason they fired me was because I told on them, and I broke up their little boys’ club,” former Dyncorp employee Ben Johnston said at a congressional hearing in 2002.

A helicopter mechanic working for Dyncorp on an Air Force contract, Johnston had observed Dyncorp employees with young girls believed to have been purchased and employees bragging about buying and selling them in 1999 and 2000.

His allegations were investigated by the Army but after some initial work that did turn up significant evidence of trafficking, including a confession by one employee that women were sold “permanently,” they turned the investigation over to the local police. But the local police erroneously did not believe they could prosecute American contractors, according to a Human Rights Watch report. Nor did the Army investigators interview a Moldovan woman who was purchased, explore allegations that Johnston’s supervisors had raped a woman or that she or other women had been trafficked.

“There is my supervisor, the biggest guy there [in Bosnia] with DynCorp, videotaping having sex with these girls, girls saying no,” Johnston said at the hearing, referring to a video turned over to Army investigators, “but that guy now, to my knowledge, he is in America doing fine. There was no repercussion for raping the girl.”

In addition to the Army’s investigation, a Department of Defense Office of Inspector General assessment found evidence that contractor employees were involved in trafficking, the latter finding that it “continues to be an issue” in Bosnia as late as December 2003. However, no prosecutions for trafficking came as a result.

Johnston reached a settlement for an undisclosed amount with the company hours a British panel ruled against Dyncorp in another similar case and days before his case was to go to trial in Texas in August 2002.

The other company insider was Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraskan deployed by Dyncorp on a State Department contract as part of the U.S. contingent of the International Police Task Force there.

An October 9, 2000, e-mail she wrote, entitled, “Do Not Read This if You Have a Weak Stomach or Guilty Conscience,” was sent to more than 50 U.N. personnel in Bosnia detailing the involvement in trafficking of various aspects of the international force of which she was part. It started a chain reaction that led to her firing the following April, she said.

She won before a British employment tribunal in August 2002 that ordered Dyncorp to pay her nearly $180,000.

But she saw little government action to investigate her specific allegations, said Bolkovac, a former policewoman. In her estimation of what was done: “pretty much zero.”

On the issues she raised in Bosnia, “there’s nobody willing to go the extra mile and do the investigation,” she said.

But other roadblocks also existed. “Get rid of the victim and get ride of the perpetrator and you don’t have a case,” Bolkovac told me, referring to the pattern of sending offenders and victims back to their home countries.

These cases and the media attention they garnered played out around the same time President George W. Bush issued his government-wide “zero tolerance” trafficking policy in 2002 and spoke before the U.N. General Assembly in 2003.

Since Bosnia, DynCorp has continued to win large and important contracts with the U.S. government, including contracts to train police in both Iraq and Afghanistan. But accusations of continued involvement of its employees in prostitution followed it beyond the Balkans – at least according to one former DynCorp subcontractor who testified before the Senate Democratic Policy Committee in 2008.

Dyncorp employees ran a “prostitution ring” that imported prostitutes from Kuwait into Baghdad in armored vehicles and operated out of hotels along the Tigris River, according to Barry Halley, a former Dyncorp subcontractor. The women appeared to be adults from Eastern Europe, he said.

Halley observed this in early 2004 before switching jobs

August 2, 2011 Posted by | Balkans, Contractor Oversight, Government Contractor, Iraq, Rape, Sexual Assault, Whistleblower | , , , , , , | 1 Comment