Memorandum from the Campaign Against Arms
1. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT)
welcomes the Foreign Affairs Committee's Inquiry into the Green
Paper on Private Military Companies which will facilitate debate
on the issues. CAAT's memorandum represents the organisation's
preliminary thoughts on the subject. These will be reviewed in
the light of the evidence given to your Committee and of your
2. The Green Paper sets out six options
a ban on military activity abroad;
a ban on recruitment for military
a licensing regime for military services;
registration and notification;
a General Licence for Private Military
Companies/Private Security Companies;
Self-regulation: a Voluntary Code
Since the Campaign Against Arms Trade is opposed
to all military exports, and as part of this has opposed military
training and worked for an end to mercenary activities, it will
not surprise your Committee to learn that CAAT favours the first
A RETROGRADE STEP
3. CAAT believes that it would be a retrograde
step to licence, and thereby condone, the use of armed force by
bodies other than publicly accountable military, security and
police forces. There is also a danger that, to distance itself,
a future Government could use a private company to undertake an
activity that many members of the public might find objectionable.
4. As the international legal system is
premised on action by states, CAAT would be interested to hear
of the Government's assessment as to the legal implications, if
any, that might result from the UK government sanctioning the
activities of private military companies overseas.
5. Private companies, no matter how well
run, have priorities other than those of government and are finally
answerable to their shareholders or owners. The Green Paper, paragraph
42, quotes a report that says that such companies have a vested
interest in maintaining instability so there is an ongoing demand
for their services.
6. The Government argues that performance
clauses in contracts will give companies an incentive to complete
the tasks for which they have been employed. It says that in practice
it is often the employing party which has a reason for prolonging
the contract, for example to exploit mineral sources. CAAT would
suggest that there could be a temptation to collude between the
company and its employer.
7. The Government itself admits that the
employees of private military companies have been known to switch
sides in a conflict.
8. The Green Paper presents five arguments
against a ban on military activity abroad. CAAT does not believe
that these represent insurmountable difficulties.
Difficulty in enforcement
9. Legislation covering the extra-territorial
activities of UK citizens and UK-controlled companies is increasingly
being enacted. Examples include the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971,
the Chemical Weapons Act 1996, the Sex Offenders Act 1997, the
Landmines Act 1998 and on bribery and corruption in February 2002.
All these would have similar enforcement difficulties. More positively,
they also have a deterrent effect and show that the UK considers
certain activities undesirable and unacceptable.
10. CAAT would like the ban to cover training,
strategic advice and other support activities so there would be
no question of a charge of inconsistency. It should not, however,
be beyond the capabilities of Government lawyers to draft legislation
that did not preclude neutral medical or humanitarian assistance
Interference with individual liberty
11. The opinions of Lord Diplock notwithstanding,
this would seem to be a somewhat specious argument as the areas
of life where individual liberties are constrained by government
are too numerous to list.
Depriving weak but legitimate governments of needed
12. If the international community feels
support is necessary, it should find the political will to provide
assistance, either nationally or multi-nationally. It should not
devolve the responsibility onto unaccountable private companies.
Depriving UK companies of legitimate business
13. Sales of military equipment can often
cause instability and conflict, and are certainly no part of any
solution. Furthermore, where there is instability and conflict,
legitimate civil business opportunities can be reduced.
14. CAAT is pleased that, in paragraph 48,
the Green Paper states "an over-reliance on coercive means
of achieving security . . . will rarely provide long-term solutions.
The easy availability of such means through private companies
might represent a temptation for states who did not wish to face
the more difficult long-term challenges of creating inclusive
and pluralistic political communities."
15. The use of mercenaries would reinforce
the idea that military solutions can resolve conflict.
16. Democracy, peace and justice would be
better served if the resources which would otherwise be used by
the UK government to control or licence mercenary activities are
used to give positive support to or impose sanctions on troubled
states or regions. Support could include negotiating political
solutions, development aid and assistance to establish independent
media; whilst sanctions would include arms embargoes.
17. Tighter controls on small arms, arms
brokers and conflict goods could also do much to lessen the demand
18. With all these measures, it would, of
course, be preferable if action were taken on an international
basis. However, lack of consensus should not preclude unilateral
action by the UK, or action by the European Union or a group of
19. CAAT seeks an end to all mercenary activities.
If this cannot be achieved at this point, the following controls
are minimum immediate requirements:
(a) all dealings between government departments
and agencies and the military companies, other than operational
details, to be in the public domain;
(b) any contract entered into between a military
company and a foreign government to stipulate a cash fee and no
other benefit. No other business sharing directors or offices
with the providers of security should be allowed to have any dealings
with the foreign government concerned for a period of, say, five
years. The ownership of the military companies should be made
(c) the companies be made responsible under
UK law for any breaches of human rights or the laws of war that
may be committed by their employees.
Campaign Against Arms Trade