Govt ‘blocking mercenary regulation’

The government has been accused of blocking attempts to regulate private security contractors operating in war zones around the world, despite recent incidents showing mercenaries killing indiscriminately in Iraq.

Campaign group War on Want say the government has made a sudden U-turn on the subject, with earlier assurances of regulation suddenly going cold.

“Early in the year we were getting noises from the Foreign Office saying they’d taken on board our campaign,” a spokesman told politics.co.uk.

“We had meetings at the Foreign Office and it looked like it was going ahead. Then suddenly it all went quiet.”

War on Want then launched a freedom of information request to discover what the government had been planning and found out consultations on the subject had indeed been set, but that nothing was now happening.

“The freedom of information request shows that far from going quiet the government was making formal steps to launch a consultation for regulation,” the spokesman continued.

“But nothing happened.

“Maybe its from John Hutton [business secretary] who made a speech saying the period of regulation is over, or the military complaining of overstretch, or even just a basic belief in privatisation.

“There’s all this pressure mounting, so what’s holding it up?”

Recent events – specifically in Iraq – have pushed the United Nations, British MPs and even the industry itself to call for some sort of decisive action from the Foreign Office, but David Miliband’s department has so far failed to unveil any plans.

MPs on the foreign affairs committee recently described Mr Miliband’s failure to act “unacceptable”, expressing dismay at the absence of legislative proposals in the government’s draft legislative programme.

But when politics.co.uk contacted the Foreign Office about War on Want’s claims, a spokesman said the government was still considering the matter.

“The discussion is going on at the present time,” he said.

“The government as a whole is looking at this issue. Minister are considering it as we speak.”

Last month a Panorama film on the BBC showed an incident where mercenaries working for British private security group Erinys International fired their guns on a taxi in Kirkuk, Iraq.

In came in the same month as the death of two Iraqi women at the hands of mercenaries for Australian company Unity Resources Group.

But neither incident compares with the behaviour of mercenaries working for American firm Blackwater, who killed 17 Iraqi civilians in September of last year.

With the government still committed to two unpopular wars, morale in the armed forces at an all-time low and the political consequences of troop deaths weighing heavily on ministers’ mind, the chances of a radical departure from the use of private contractors remains unlikely.