Examination of Witness (Questions 80 -
TUESDAY 11 JUNE 2002
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
(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