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Private Military & Security

The Absence of Justice: Private Military Contractors, Sexual Assault, and the U.S. Government's Policy of Indifference


Snell, Angela. 2011. "The Absence of Justice: Private Military Contractors, Sexual Assault, and the U.S. Government's Policy of Indifference." University of Illinois Law Review, no. 3, 1125-64.

Author: Angela Snell


As the United States remains in Iraq and Afghanistan, stories of abuse by private military contractors (PMCs) have flooded the news. This Note focuses on an area of PMC crime that has garnered less public attention and censure: sexual crimes against civilians in non-war zones. Emphasizing the lack of legal recourse for victims of sexual crime by PMCs and the systematic failure of the United States to punish sexual crime perpetrated by its own PMCs, the author argues that the United States should be held liable for the sexual crimes that its contractors commit, including those that occur outside of war zones.

This note first explains the exponential growth in the United States' use of PMCs and highlights that governmental supervision of PMCs has not kept pace with the number of contractors that the United States employs. Noting that PMCs generally employ former members of the military, the author traces a culture of violence against women back to attitudes learned in the U.S. military, and then shows that PMCs are even more likely to be involved in crimes of sexual violence than U.S. soldiers.

The Note details and analyzes the possibility of responding to PMC sexual violence against civilians outside of war zones under U.S. military law, U.S. criminal law, criminal law where the crime occurs, International Human Rights Law, International Criminal Law, and the U.S. Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The author determines that these methods, as they stand now, are inadequate because of problems of limited jurisdiction, U.S. reluctance to prosecute contractors and willingness to protect U.S. nationals from prosecution abroad, requirements that violence be widespread or systematic before triggering international prosecution, and the absence of state liability for the actions of private individuals, unless the state condones the activities. The author calls for a three-fold solution: first, victims should file complaints against the United States in international courts, under the theory that the United States is liable for its contractors' acts, because it has condoned them by failing to punish them and even actively discouraging their prosecution; second, victims should sue individual perpetrators in the United States under the ATS, both to compensate victims and to deter contractors from future violence; third, and finally, the United States must act to close the jurisdictional gap that allows PMCs to escape prosecution by signing and supporting international treaties, developing its own stricter system of criminal liability for PMCs, and using contract mechanisms to enforce standards of conduct for PMCs.

Keywords: private security, sexual assault, accountability

Topics: International Law, International Criminal Law, International Human Rights, Justice, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Private Military & Security, Sexual Violence Regions: Africa, MENA, Americas, North America, Asia, Middle East, South Asia Countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, United States of America

Year: 2011

(Re)masculinizing Security? Gender and Private Military Security Companies


Joachim, Jutta, and Andrea Schneiker. 2012. "(Re)masculinizing Security? Gender and Private Military Security Companies." In Gender, Agency and Political Violence (Rethinking Political Violence), edited by Laura Ahall and Laura J. Shepherd. London: Palgrave.

Authors: Jutta Joachim, Andrea Schneiker


Gender is not a "security issue," but it tells us a lot about how, why and when certain subjects are written as security concerns. Thirteen case studies on violent subjects, reason, and emotion demonstrate different ways in which we understand political violence, security, resistance, power, and agency, and how we make sense of gender. (Abstract from GWonline

Topics: Gender, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Private Military & Security, Security

Year: 2012

'Cowboys and Professionals': The Politics of Identity Work in the Private and Military Security Company


Higate, Paul. 2011. "'Cowboys and Professionals': The Politics of Identity Work in the Private and Military Security Company." Journal of International Studies 40 (2): 321-41.

Author: Paul Higate


This article examines the politics of identity work in the private security industry. Drawing on memoirs authored by British private military contractors, and using a theoretical framework influenced by symbolic interactionist thought, the article highlights the relevance of inter-subjectivity to identity constitution. In particular, British contractors are found to constitute their professional identity in relation to their US military and contractor counterparts, above all by framing them as ‘less-competent others’. This article makes an original contribution to the private and military security companies literature through its sociological focus on the links between national and professional self-identities and security practices on the ground. The article also explores the importance of the memoir genre as a valid textual resource which throws light on the interplay of the international and security dimensions within multinational military and militarised contexts. (JSTOR)

Keywords: private security, masculinity, identity politics

Topics: Combatants, Male Combatants, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Private Military & Security, Security Regions: Europe Countries: United Kingdom

Year: 2011

Private Military Security Companies and the Problem of Men and Masculinities


Higate, Paul. 2009. "Private Military Security Companies and the Problem of Men and Masculinities." Paper presented at the 50th Annual Conference of the International Studies Association, New York, February 15-18.

Author: Paul Higate


Though there is little new in the existence of guns for hire or mercenaries for more critically inclined commentators, few predicted the extent to which private military contractors would come to both supplant and complement the activities of regular military personnel in the contemporary period. The occupation of Iraq puts this into sharpest focus with the number of private military contractors estimated to be close to 200,000 in comparison to the 160,000 uniformed personnel of national militaries occupying the country (Scahill, 2007). The dramatic burgeoning of the private security sector has led commentators to describe it as the new business face of warfare in the contemporary period (Mandel, 2002; Avant, 2005; Kinsey, 2007; Singer, 2005) underscoring its significance both now and almost certainly into the future. Drawing on the labour of men (and rather less women) from a range of countries (Maclellan, 2006), this multi billion dollar industry has become a key component in the management of conflict and its aftermath (Holmqvist, 2005).

Private Military Security Companies (PMSCs) should be seen as a critical subject of political enquiry as they engage international relations, domestic politics and national/international legislative systems within the context of both ethical and moral questions concerning the use of violence. Companies are involved in: the security of convoys, close protection of dignitaries, security sector reform, provision of logistical and support functions to military peacekeeping operations and combat operations.
Curiously, however, scholars working within the fields of Political Science, Critical Security Studies, Law and Gender Studies have almost entirely overlooked the importance of masculinity in their analyses of this sector (for a focus on women see Schultz and Yeung, 2005). What do we miss when masculinity is ignored in analyses of PMSCs? It is not simply that PMSCs have become increasingly important to how conflict is managed, but crucially - in contrast to regular military - their activities remain largely unregulated and their personnel almost entirely unaccountable. When seen alongside the perpetration of human rights abuses by a not insignificant number of private military contractors - including most notoriously the shooting of 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Najaf in September 2007 (Tavernise, 2007), it is possible to suggest that PMSCs represent a key moment of (re)masculinisation in the contemporary period. It is for this reason that the curiosity of gender scholars should be sparked since the mobilisation thousands of men trained in violence who go on to work in spaces of legal exception is a unique phenomena that can, at times, exacerbate the insecurity of those vulnerable populations forced to host them.

There are few if any arenas that demonstrate the potent connections between violence, power and sex in the “post 9/11 manly moment” (Eisenstein, 2007: 161) as explicitly as those that concern the largely unregulated privatisation of force. Through suggesting future lines of inquiry around a unique and vibrant site of (militarised) masculinities that constitute the employee component of the PMSC sector, this article hopes to lay the foundations for a research agenda that recognises the centrality of masculinities to both the personal and professional social practices of its male employees. Depending on one’s normative intentions, findings from these kinds of inquiry can be used to argue for tighter regulation of the industry, or in a more radical sense, to its incremental dissolution. My own position though somewhat unlikely in the current period of neo-liberal and U.S.-driven geo-political dominance - is to argue that PMSC involvement in direct combat and combat support should be outlawed. Reasons for this are numerous but include primarily the ways that mercenary assistance means that the use of force continues to be prioritised as a decisive means of bringing war to an end as opposed to developing less bloody forms of conflict resolution (Richards, undated: 1). Not only does co-opting the profit motive into security work of this kind shape the conditions of possibility by which conflict is negotiated, but in a related sense, assumes an immanent logic that is difficult to break from. The quest for a peaceful world is harmed by increasing the number of private military contractors who remain outside the regulatory mechanisms of state military who in relative terms have constrained the actions of men of violence over many decades. How might we begin to challenge this creeping militarization?

Keywords: private security, masculinity

Topics: Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Private Military & Security, Militarization, Peacekeeping, Security, Security Sector Reform Regions: MENA, Asia, Middle East Countries: Iraq

Year: 2009

'Mercenary Masculinities' Imagine Security: The Case of the Private Military Contractor


Higate, Paul. 2014. 'Mercenary Masculinities' Imagine Security: The Case of the Private Military Contractor. Bristol, UK: Economic and Social Research Council.

Author: Paul Higate

Keywords: masculinity, private security

Topics: Combatants, Male Combatants, Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Private Military & Security, Security

Year: 2014

'Guards and Guns': Towards Privatised Militarism in Post-Apartheid South Africa


Cock, Jacklyn. 2005. 'Guards and Guns': Towards Privatised Militarism in Post-Apartheid South Africa. Journal of Southern African Studies 31 (4): 791-803.

Author: Jacklyn Cock


This article argues that contemporary South Africa is marked by the coexistence of both old and new forms of militarism. A shallow and uneven process of state demilitarisation was underway between 1990 to 1998 in the form of reductions in military expenditure, weapons holdings, force levels, employment in arms production and base closures. However, this has had contradictory consequences including providing an impetus to a 'privatised militarism' that is evident in three related processes: new forms of violence, the growth of private security firms and the proliferation of small arms. Since 1998 a process of re-militarisation is evident in the use of the military in foreign policy and a re-armament programme. Both trends illustrate how a restructured, but not transformed, post-apartheid army represents a powerful block of military interests. (JSTOR)

Keywords: private security, militarization

Topics: Gender, Masculinity/ies, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Private Military & Security, Militarism, Post-Conflict, Weapons /Arms Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa

Year: 2005

The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors, and One Woman's Fight for Justice


Bolkovac, Kathryn and Cari Lynn. 2011. The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors, and One Woman's Fight for Justice. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Authors: Kathryn Bolkovac, Cari Lynn


When Nebraska police officer and divorced mother of three Kathryn Bolkovac saw a recruiting announcement for private military contractor DynCorp International, she applied and was hired. Good money, world travel, and the chance to help rebuild a war-torn country sounded like the perfect job. Bolkovac was shipped out to Bosnia, where DynCorp had been contracted to support the UN peacekeeping mission. She was assigned as a human rights investigator, heading the gender affairs unit. The lack of proper training sounded the first alarm bell, but once she arrived in Sarajevo, she found out that things were a lot worse. At great risk to her personal safety, she began to unravel the ugly truth about officers involved in human trafficking and forced prostitution and their connections to private mercenary contractors, the UN, and the U.S. State Department. After bringing this evidence to light, Bolkovac was demoted, threatened with bodily harm, fired, and ultimately forced to flee the country under cover of darkness--bringing the incriminating documents with her. Thanks to the evidence she collected, she won a lawsuit against DynCorp, finally exposing them for what they were. This is her story and the story of the women left behind. (WorldCat)

Topics: Gender, Women, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Private Military & Security, Peacekeeping, Rights, Human Rights, Women's Rights, Trafficking, Sex Trafficking Regions: Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe Countries: Bosnia & Herzegovina

Year: 2011


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