Human Rights and Security in Iraq

A couple of recently released UN reports reveal the lingering security and human rights concerns in Iraq.

In its human rights report, issued on Saturday, the UN mission in Iraq cautioned that, while violent attacks have decreased in Baghdad, the security situation in the rest of the country remains precarious.

In another report, a group of experts established in 2005 to investigate the use of mercenaries found that private military contractors (PMCs) often operate without sufficient accountability, posing yet another danger to human rights in countries like Iraq.

Presenting its report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the working group said that private security companies in such conflict-wracked countries as Iraq, Colombia and Afghanistan are recruiting former policemen and members of the military from developing countries as “security guards” in their operations.

Once there, those guards in fact become “militarily armed private soldiers,” which is essentially a new way to describe mercenaries, who are often responsible for serious human rights abuses, the working group stated.

Even without mention of the name Blackwater, the implied subtext of this report remains the incident last September, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed by personnel of the infamous U.S. contractor. As voices from The Wall Street Journal to The New Republic have opened their arms to the possibility of using PMCs in places like Darfur, the working group’s report serves as a reminder that contractors can often undermine the very security they are meant to ensure.