Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 80 - 83)



  80. If memory serves me correctly, in that period there was a rather interesting situation where regular British armed personnel were in some strength in Oman, acting as advisers or whatever, working alongside their colleagues, often from the same regiments, who had taken sabbatical leave from the armed forces, quite officially, to work on contract for the Omani Government to fight the guerillas in the south, without the protection, logistical backup, support, if they were wounded, of the British armed forces.
  (Mr Bilton) There were clearly contract employees, contracted from the British Government to the Sultan's armed forces; there is no doubt about that. It was done officially. I think in fact all the protections were in place there.

  81. No, they were not. I was there.
  (Mr Bilton) Then you are more familiar with that, than I am.

  82. There were casualties, in fact deaths, of armed forces personnel who did not have the medical support which their colleagues who were there as part of the advisory force had. I understand they were operating independently, directly under the control of the Omani armed forces, and consequently when they became casualties they did not have the medical backup to get them out of the country and back to the UK. That seemed to me the forerunner of this sort of private military company scenario.
  (Mr Bilton) If you were there, I have to defer to your knowledge in this matter.

Sir John Stanley

  83. A lot of this session has very rightly and properly centred on private military companies in relation to national governments and the British Government in particular. The Green Paper raises the wider possibility of private military companies being involved in supporting international organisations and particularly the United Nations. In paragraph 56 of the Green Paper it says that it is striking that a number of those who are prepared to consider a role for private military companies are people who have had experience in humanitarian operations or UN work. It goes on in paragraph 57 to say that the question of employing private military companies in wider roles for the UN is something which needs debate. What is your view about the desirability or otherwise of the UN utilising private military companies?
  (Mr Bilton) I have no personal problem with this. There are occasions in which the UN can put in a force very quickly to solve a little localised problem. Where humanitarian organisations are concerned, it is quite clear that they have been involved in de-mining operations, they have been involved in providing security for humanitarian relief operations and that is quite important. What are we talking about here? We are talking about suffering of people and trying to bring aid to the suffering of people, not causing more suffering than needs be. That in essence goes to the heart of the subject of the employment of mercenaries, not private military companies. I do not equate private military companies with mercenaries. I think they are entirely separate. Private military companies have a role to play. I can see a quite sensible role for them in some United Nations operations and in humanitarian operations. I have no problem with that at all.

  Sir John Stanley: Thank you very much for your evidence and for your paper. We look forward to receiving any further written material you care to give us. Thank you very much indeed.

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