Examination of Witness (Questions 100
TUESDAY 11 JUNE 2002
100. The problem I have here is trying to recognise
human nature and imagining what it is like for a highly professional,
well-trained member of the armed forces now acting independently
rather than a commercial operation. I am trying to imagine what
it would be like to be in those situations where it is life or
death and you prefer it to be your life and someone else's death
and whether the reaction from individuals is going to be somewhat
extreme to ensure their self-preservation beyond the levels which
they would be permitted to do under the Queen's Regulations, knowing
full well that if they had operated like that under the Queen's
Regulations they were a deterrent. That is what we are dismissing
this morning, the deterrent there upon them, knowing that they
are accountable and they could well end up in one of the Army's
prisons, perhaps Colchester. A tremendous sense of responsibility
and accountability comes with that deterrent effect that they
have to work within, which does not apply for a PMC.
(Mr Howitt) But as such it does apply. The Geneva
Convention provides the principle rules of war.
101. Yes, but it is an awful long way down the
line to get that to come into force.
(Mr Howitt) It is the framework which is accepted
and it is the framework to which we operate.
102. As you yourself said, there have been well
documented cases of behaviour by armed forces personnel, working
as legitimate professional soldiers in the armed forces, going
outside the rules of law and the rules of the Geneva Convention
and how long it has taken to bring those to account, though in
most cases to account they have been brought. Look how much more
difficult it becomes if you are talking about people employed
by a PMC, maybe non-British nationals, from anywhere, who could
disappear anywhere many months before any inquiry could be launched
and carried out.
(Mr Howitt) Yes; tracking war criminals in the former
Yugoslavia is a very good example of that and the complexity.
103. My point is that the deterrent is missing;
the deterrent is missing. I just wanted to get that on the record.
(Mr Howitt) Yes; absolutely.
104. May I pick up the question of commercial
mineral exploitation, economic exploitation and its relationship
to PMCs? We heard this morning from Colonel Spicer that this was
of no interest to him. It may have been of interest to other companies
which the company he was involved with were also involved with.
I should like your views on this. Do you believe that this is
never a factor or has never been a factor? Can you give us examples
of where you feel that it has been a factor in the way that PMCs
have operated in some of these countries?
(Mr Howitt) Quite clearly the long history of interest
in Africa and the mineral and other issues there is no coincidence.
I do not think anyone is trying to hide the fact that the economic
attraction of that has been a force behind certain PMCs' activities
over the last 30 years.
105. Is it not the case that this sort of barter
trade is quite common in international military operations anyway?
(Mr Howitt) I am not familiar with that myself. It
is probably worth taking a step back and looking at the question
more broadly. Quite often in environments where the use of PMCs
is necessary and in states or entities or in regions, it is because
of the absence of effective governance systems that that environment
exists. Governance systems can only operate if they have revenue
streams through which they can service their citizens. The provision
of governance, be it health, education, social welfare and security,
is something which needs to be provided in this environment. To
make the equation purely between PMCs and a mineral concession
is to be slightly missing the point. Where the most effective
and constructive use of PMCs potentially lies is in assisting
entities, polities and states, in stabilising environments so
that stable revenue streams and effective governance structures
can be established. That is increasingly becoming the case. The
decade of the 1990s was like all the rivets popping on the ship:
quite a violent and fast reaction. In a way it does provide a
framework of how governance has failed and where the void in security
leaves opportunity for people to abuse these circumstances. The
experiences of that decade should demonstrate to us where some
of the future difficulties will lie. As such the key link in thisand
we draw it outis between the provision of governance and
a secure environment in order to be able to do that. In our opinion
there is certainly a role to be provided there for PMCs.
106. That is a very interesting point. I think
what you are talking about is institutional strengthening, those
institutions of governance having been weakened in the last decade,
possibly because of actions within the countries themselves. If
I understand you correctly, what you are saying is that that will
only be done by PMCs providing some sort of military of peacekeeping,
some sort of policing role, to provide the framework with which
these institutions can be strengthened. This seems to me therefore
an ideal role to be done under the umbrella of the United Nations,
not individual countries.
(Mr Howitt) Absolutely, but the United Nations is
unable to contract PMCs. Theoretically it is; in practical terms
it is an impossibility because of, dare I say it, vested interests.
The processing and the bureaucracy of the institution is such
that it would not be feasible to do so, certainly not without
a very prolonged process of discussion and negotiation.
Sir John Stanley
107. Could you just clarify that? Surely the
United Nations as a matter of course enters into contracts with
private companies over a whole range of issues. I do not understand
the answer. Could you clarify it?
(Mr Howitt) The UN does contract companies but I think
that the emotive nature of PMCs would almost certainly preclude
any contracts with them.
108. So you are judging the impediment is purely
a political one, not a constitutional one.
(Mr Howitt) Absolutely; entirely.
109. I do not know whether you can help on this
but what is the legal status of soldiers with PMCs internationally?
There is this new concept which the Americans have found, dreamed
up, call it what you like, of unlawful combatants. It seems to
me one of the things we ought to be addressing ourselves to and
which we have not spoken about this morning is the status of these
people in international law. Presumably there is a big flaw, is
there not, because they are not always going to be hired by a
sovereign government, are they?
(Mr Howitt) No, conceivably not. I am not qualified
to help on that.
Sir John Stanley
110. You heard the exchange I had with Colonel
Spicer on the monitoring issue and you will have heard me expressing
some considerable doubts as to whether his proposal for using
Defence Attachés would be one which would be at all practical.
I should like to turn to your own proposal for a monitoring and
evaluation unit. In your paper you have certainly set out a very
impressive and very reasonable job specification for the people
involved. You said of your monitoring and evaluation unit, "It
should be staffed by sectoral and regional experts with the appropriate
knowledge to scrutinize the activities and conduct of any contracted
PMC. Staff would also need to be conversant with internationally-recognised
security best practices and qualified in such fields as Human
Rights, political and economic development, environment, etc".
The point I want to put to you is that the employment of such
very highly multi-skilled people does not come cheap. The cost
of your monitoring and evaluation unit, which I can see is highly
desirable in principle, is going to be very considerable. May
I ask under your scheme for coupling a general licensing system
with a monitoring and evaluation unit who is going to pick up
the bill for the monitoring and evaluation unit?
(Mr Howitt) The Government.
111. Would you agree therefore that if the Government
are going to pick up that bill, that must substantially narrow
any claimed cost differential between the cost of employing private
military companies and the cost of employing regular service personnel?
(Mr Howitt) No; if I might. The
reason I say that clearly is that in order adequately to address
some of the questions of accountability which have been talked
about earlier a third party body is an essential component of
that. Also, as we drew out earlier, there is a concentration of
skills and best practices within the UK and within a regulatory
framework I should expect certainly that in order to be contracted
the company would have to be domiciled in the UK and to disclose
full company structures and ownerships to the Government. Therefore
within that framework there would be a cost benefit to the Government
for contracts. The use of British personnel for these tasks abroad
over a long period of time would in fact end up being a revenue
generator, which would offset the cost of the monitoring and evaluation
112. I have taken careful note of what you said,
but I must put it to you that if you are going to set up a monitoring
and evaluation unit where the cost is going to fall on the Government,
that surely must reduce any cost advantage of employing private
military companies because by definition it must be an extra cost
to the taxpayer.
(Mr Howitt) The figures in your own paper indicate
a very substantial difference. Using the Sierra Leone case, and
maybe it is not a particularly good one to be illustrative, the
difference in costs are fairly substantial between the deployment
of UK national assets, as was the case, and the contracts which
Sandline were engaged in. The cost difference between those is
Sir John Stanley: Thank you very much for your
evidence and for your paper. We are most grateful.
8 See Evidence, pp Ev 22, paragraph 21. Back
Note by Witness: The establishment and operating of an
effective Monitoring and Evaluations Unit will serve to act as
a deterrent for bad practises. This is a primary function of the
unit, to ensure compliance by any given PMC to the terms of reference
in any given contract (specifying international norms) and the
employment of best practices. Back