The US under both Bush and Obama has used more mercenaries than even Gaddafi could afford - and they have allowed them to be just as above the law. There's no sign that the formal withdrawal from Iraq will change this as 5,000 'civilian' 'private security contractors' (actually armed mercenaries) stay under the command of the US State Department
Widespread US use of mercenaries (many being former US forces) for ‘plausible deniability’ of involvement and to make operations using them allow them immunity from prosecution led to the US demand that UN resolution 1970 on Libya should include a specific clause (clause 6) exempting nationals of states not party to the ICC (International Criminal Court) from prosecution except by their own state. This made both most of Gaddafi’s African mercenaries and former US special forces hired as ‘private contractors’ and operating in Libya, immune to prosecution by the ICC (1).
This was due to the US and other NATO governments sending former members of their special forces into Libya hired as ‘private security contractors’ (2).
Private military contractors in Iraq like Blackwater (renamed ‘Xe’ in the Obama era) and Dyncorp have been proven to be involved in numerous shootings of civilians there, many seemingly almost random (3).
The US mission in Iraq is now to be headed by the State Department rather than the US military, but private military contractors working for the State Department have an immunity from prosecution that is even more complete than the almost total immunity of those working for the Pentagon (4).
The total withdrawal of US troops seems to be the result of the Iraqi government refusing to accept Obama administration conditions that they would have immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts.
The Washington Post reported that ‘Iraqi leaders said last week that they want a small contingent of U.S. military trainers to remain, but without immunity from local prosecution, a condition the Obama administration has said it cannot accept. The administration has been planning to keep 3,000 to 5,000 military trainers in the country if the two sides can hammer out an agreement.’(5)
The Status of Forces Agreement between the US and Iraqi governments negotiated in 2008 (and which came into force in 2009) supposedly ended immunity from prosecution by Iraqi courts for private security contractors (or mercenaries) operating in the country (6).
However the UN working group on mercenaries reported in June this year that ‘It is not clear, however, whether this removal of immunity covers all contractors employed by the United States Government and whether it is fully applied in Iraqi courts’ (7).
This leaves the possibility of the kind of immunity from prosecution for mercenaries employed by the US State Department in Iraq that led to American employees of the US private security firm Dyncorp, employed by the State Department in Bosnia in the 1990s, to get off entirely unpunished after kidnapping 12 to 15 year old Bosnian girls and repeatedly raping them and buying and selling them as slaves (8) – (13).
This did not result in any prosecution of anyone involved in any court, nor has it ever stopped the British and US governments from continuing to employ Dyncorp in wars around the world (14) - (15).
It was as bad as anything the Serbs were alleged to have done in justifications given for war being necessary to stop such abuses.
The justification given for immunity from prosecution is to ‘protect American citizens’ from unfair convictions. Who will protect civilians from being shot by people placed above the law though? Who will protect young girls from American citizens in other countries when they’re placed above the law and turn out to be paedophiles and rapists?
(1) = IB Times 27 Feb 2011 ‘Full Text of UN Resolution imposing sanctions on Libya’,http://uk.ibtimes.com/articles/116663/20110227/un-resolution-libya-sanctions-original-text-un-resolution-1970-2011.htm
(2) = Guardian 31 Mar 2011 ‘Libya: SAS veterans helping Nato identify Gaddafi targets in Misrata’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/31/libya-sas-veterans-misrata-rebels ; Former SAS soldiers and other western employees of private security companies are helping Nato identify targets in the Libyan port city of Misrata, the scene of heavy fighting between Muammar Gaddafi's forces and rebels, well-placed sources have told the Guardian.
(3) = Independent 14 Dec 2011 ‘Security firms involved in 200 shootings in Iraq’ , http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/security-firms-involved-in-200-shootings-in-iraq-6276688.html
(4) = Washington Post 08 Oct 2011 ‘State Department readies Iraq operation, its biggest since Marshall Plan’,http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/state-department-readies-iraq-operation-its-biggest-since-marshall-plan/2011/10/05/gIQAzRruTL_story.html , ‘The State Department is racing against an end-of-year deadline to take over Iraq operations from the U.S. military, throwing together buildings and marshaling contractors...an estimated 16,000 civilians under the American ambassador — the size of an Army division…To do so, the department is contracting about 5,000 security personnel.’
(5) = Washington Post 08 Oct 2011 ‘State Department readies Iraq operation, its biggest since Marshall Plan’,http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/state-department-readies-iraq-operation-its-biggest-since-marshall-plan/2011/10/05/gIQAzRruTL_story.html ; ‘Iraqi leaders said last week that they want a small contingent of U.S. military trainers to remain, but without immunity from local prosecution, a condition the Obama administration has said it cannot accept. The administration has been planning to keep 3,000 to 5,000 military trainers in the country if the two sides can hammer out an agreement.’
(6) = Independent 10 Jul 2008 ‘Security firms lose immunity in Iraq deal’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/security-firms-lose-immunity-in-iraq-deal-863931.html
(7) = UN News Centre 16 Jun 2011 ‘ Iraq should keep regulating private military and security firms, say UN experts’, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=38735&Cr=iraq&Cr1= , ‘The Group welcomed the fact that the 2009 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between Iraq and the US contains a provision removing the immunity of some private foreign security contractors in Iraq. “It is not clear, however, whether this removal of immunity covers all contractors employed by the United States Government and whether it is fully applied in Iraqi courts,” they said. Among its recommendations, the experts urged the Iraqi Government to prioritize the adoption of legislation regulating security companies that has been pending since 2008.’
(8) = Kathryn Bolkovac & Carin Lynn (2011) ‘The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors, and One Woman's Fight for Justice’, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011
(9) = Human Rights Watch Nov 2002 ‘HOPES BETRAYED : TRAFFICKING OF WOMEN AND GIRLS TO POST-CONFLICT BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA FOR FORCED PROSTITUTION ’, http://www.hrw.org/reports/2002/bosnia/ ; see especially ‘XI. SFOR CONTRACTOR INVOLVEMENT’, http://www.hrw.org/reports/2002/bosnia/Bosnia1102-11.htm#P1160_252276(covers involvement of Dyncorp employees contracted by the US State Department)
(10) = BBC News 28 Jan 2011 ‘Hard Talk - Kathryn Bolkovac, Whistleblower’,http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00y26qv
(11) = BBC News 27 Jan 2011 ‘Bolkovac: Male colleagues purchased girls in Bosnia’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/hardtalk/9377841.stm
(12) = Observer 29 Jul 2010 ‘British firm accused in UN 'sex scandal'’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/jul/29/unitednations , ‘A former United Nations police officer is suing a British security firm over claims that it covered up the involvement of her fellow officers in sex crimes and prostitution rackets in the Balkans….Kathryn Bolkovac, an American policewoman, was hired by DynCorp Aerospace in Aldershot for a UN post aimed at cracking down on sexual abuse and forced prostitution in Bosnia….She claims she was 'appalled' to find that many of her fellow officers were involved. She was fired by the British company after amassing evidence that UN police were taking part in the trafficking of young women from eastern Europe as sex slaves.’
(13) = Salon 06 Aug 2002 ‘Sex-slave whistle-blowers vindicated’, http://www.salon.com/2002/08/06/dyncorp/ , ‘Two former employees of DynCorp, the government contracting powerhouse, have won legal victories after charging that the $2 billion-a-year firm fired them when they complained that co-workers were involved in a Bosnia sex-slave trade.’
(14) = HRW 25 Nov 2002 ‘Bosnia and Herzegovina: Traffickers Walk Free’, http://www.hrw.org/news/2002/11/25/bosnia-and-herzegovina-traffickers-walk-free
(15) = Guardian 29 Nov 2002 ‘American firm in Bosnia sex trade row poised to win MoD contract’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2002/nov/29/military.politics ; ‘The American defence contractor forced to pay compensation to a UN police officer unfairly dismissed for reporting colleagues involved in the Bosnian sex trade is poised to be awarded its first contract by the British government, the Guardian has learned. …DynCorp, which was ordered to pay the sacked UN investigator Kathryn Bolkovac £110,000 by an employment tribunal on Tuesday, is part of a consortium that is set to be awarded preferred bidder status by the Ministry of Defence to supply support services for military firing ranges…..Mr Johnston's case included allegations of men having sex with girls as young as 12. His claims also concerned a nightclub in Bosnia frequented by DynCorp employees, where young women were sold "hourly, daily or permanently".