Parker Private Security Companies in Timor-Leste

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An analysis of the private security companies operating in Timor-Leste; efforts to regulate the private security industry at the national and international levels; and the negative impacts of the use of armed private security in other countries.
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  Handle with Care: Private Security Companies in Timor-Leste Sarah Parker  1 East Timor Law Journal 2009 I. Introduction In the wake of several highly publicized and troubling incidents involving privatesecurity companies (PSCs) in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, 2 scholars and themedia have increasingly focused on the role of PSCs in providing security in conflictand post-conflict settings. The international debate surrounding the engagement of  private security providers is becoming increasingly important in Timor-Leste, wheretwo developments have influenced the local discussion. Firstly, the number of PSCsoperating in Timor-Leste has increased since independence. Secondly, thegovernment is considering legislation authorizing non-state security personnel (andother civilians) to carry and use firearms in the course of their duties. 3  In parallel with the debate on the roles and regulation of private security providers,there is an emerging body of standards and best practices covering the activities of security firms, many of which srcinate within the industry itself. These standardsshould inform the development of regulations and/or codes of conduct governing theselection, licensing, and activities of private security personnel in Timor-Leste.The use of arms by private security personnel poses special challenges for Timor-Leste, where government capacity to appropriately regulate, monitor, and enforceweapons possession laws remains in question. If the Timorese government does  proceed to adopt legislation allowing private security personnel to carry and usefirearms, strong regulations should be carefully considered, such as strict restrictionson carrying and a prohibition on storing guns at home after hours.The aims of this paper are to:1.explore what is meant by ‘private security’ and the status of private security personnel;2.provide an overview of the PSCs operating in Timor-Leste;3.analyse efforts to regulate the private security industry at the national andinternational levels, with a special focus on the access to and use of arms by private security personnel; and4.explore some of the negative impacts of the use of armed private security in other countries. II. What are private security companies? Private individuals and groups are increasingly being engaged in conflict and post-conflict settings to provide an expanding range of security services to various actors,including governments, international organizations, humanitarian agencies, privatecompanies, and other non-governmental actors. In some instances, locally owned andoperated companies who offer basic domestic property protection and surveillancesystems provide these services. In other cases, multinational corporations are offeringinternational clients a range of services, including some that are traditionally seen as1  military operations reserved for states’ armed forces. In Iraq, for example, they arereported to account for 16 per cent of foreign personnel on the ground. 4 The classification given to non-state actors security providers depends on the natureof their services. While there is no agreed definition, generally speaking, a distinctionis made among mercenaries, private military companies (PMCs), and PSCs. Mercenaries , in general terms, are non-nationals hired by one of the parties to anarmed conflict to take part in the conflict. They are motivated by commercial interestsrather than loyalty to a cause, and hence are often referred to as ‘soldiers of fortune’.There is no undisputed definition under international law, but the 1989  International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries defines a mercenary as any person who:(a) Is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict;(b) Is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gainand, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a party to the conflict, materialcompensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar rank and functions in the armed forces of that party;(c) Is neither a national of a party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a party to the conflict;(d) Is not a member of the armed forces of a party to the conflict; and(e) Has not been sent by a State that is not a party to the conflict on official duty as amember of its armed forces.2. A mercenary is also any person who, in any other situation:(a) Is specially recruited locally or abroad for the purpose of participating in aconcerted act of violence aimed at:(i) Overthrowing a Government or otherwise undermining the constitutional order of a State; or (ii) Undermining the territorial integrity of a State;(b) Is motivated to take part therein essentially by the desire for significant privategain and is prompted by the promise or payment of material compensation;(c) Is neither a national nor a resident of the State against which such an act isdirected;(d) Has not been sent by a State on official duty; and(e) Is not a member of the armed forces of the State on whose territory the act isundertaken. 5 PMCs or  private military firms (PMFs) provide military services associated withreplacing or backing up an army or armed group or to enhance effectiveness. 6 Accordingly, they tend to specialize in the provision of military skills, includingcombat operations, strategic planning, intelligence, risk assessment, consulting onstrategic planning and force deployment, operational and logistical support, training,maintenance of weapon systems, and technical skills to legitimate domestic andforeign entities. 7 It has been noted that these services were once generally assumed to be exclusively inside the public domain. 8 PMCs/PMFs are often described or regardedas modern mercenaries. PSCs are registered civilian companies that specialize in providing contractcommercial services to domestic and foreign entities aimed at protecting personnel2  and property from criminal activity. 9 PSC services can be divided into the following broad categories: ã the guarding sector, including:a) industrial and commercial site protection; b) humanitarian aid protection;c) embassy/mission protection;d) VIP/close protection; ã the electronic security, sensor, and surveillance sector; ã the investigation and risk management sector; and ã the private intelligence sector . 10 Although the distinction between PMCs/PMFs and PSCs appears to be fairly clear onthe surface—one group provides military or ‘active’ services to entities involved incombat operations, while the other provides primarily protection or ‘passive’ services,and is not engaged in combat activities—in fact, it is not easy to make a precisedistinction in practice, and the issue has been much debated. 11 In an effort to sidesteparguments that seek to differentiate between private military and private securitycompanies, and nuanced deliberations over whether companies are engaged in‘offensive’ or ‘defensive’ services, or ‘directly participate in hostilities’, they areoften grouped together as ‘private military and security companies’ (PMSCs).For example, the Special Rapporteur on the question of the use of mercenariesincluded a comment on ‘Private and Military Assistance Companies OperatingInternationally’ in his annual reports to the UN General Assembly. Similarly, theMontreux Document (pertaining to situations of armed conflict) uses the term‘PMSCs’ and defines it as follows: PMSCs are private business entities that provide military and/or security services,irrespective of how they describe themselves. Military and security services include,in particular, armed guarding and protection of persons and objects, such as convoys, buildings and other places; maintenance and operation of weapons systems; prisoner detention; and advice to or training of local forces and security personnel. 12 It is not necessary to explore or debate the distinction for the purposes of this paper,since the private security providers operating in Timor-Leste have not been operatingin a situation of armed conflict since 2006 and are engaged exclusively in protecting personnel and property (see Table 1). III. Overview of PSCs operating in Timor-Leste According to the UN, private security guards or non-state security actors in Timor-Leste outnumber police and military combined, and are particularly visible in citiesand towns. 13 The focus of this paper is on the operations of PSCs that are providing primarily close security and surveillance services to a range of actors in Timor-Leste,including the UN; international NGOs; humanitarian agencies; embassies; and the private sector, including banks and oil extraction companies. Three companiesdominate the private security industry in Timor-Leste: APAC Security, MaubereSecurity, and Gardamor Security. 14 Table 1    provides an overview of the size andnature of their activities.3  An estimated 3,500 employees work as private security personnel for the three mainPSCs operating in Timor-Leste. PSC personnel are generally not subject to thorough background checks or screening, and although there is a preference for employing people with previous security experience, this is not a requirement. PSC personnel arenot currently permitted to carry firearms. Some carry defensive weapons such as batons and tasers, however. 15  It is not clear what level of specialized training is provided to PSC employees inTimor-Leste, although one company claimed that all of its employees undergo at leastfour days of guard training incorporating information on the company’s code of conduct, patrolling duties, radio use, body searches with handheld detectors, basicreporting, and vehicle searches. Employees are also taught emergency evacuation andfire procedures, and supplemental training is provided to certain guards in explosivedetection with atomisers and by x-ray detection. The company also provides trainingto employees in specific roles, including force continuum 16 to guards at facility sitesor in tasks where it is likely that they will have to use reasonable force (e.g. cash-in-transit operations). 17  An important question to ask is why PSCs are increasingly being employed to providesecurity in Timor-Leste. Reliance on private security is often a response to theexistence of a security threat and a perception that the state does not or cannot provideadequate public protection against the threat by way of policing and law enforcement.In Timor-Leste, past antagonism between the PNTL 18  and the F-FDTL 19 andconfusion regarding who is responsible for which aspects of internal security have nodoubt contributed to this perception and instability. Weak state capacity to ensure public security (one of the core functions of the state) leads to the creation of alternative security structures, including private security operations. 20 This, in turn, blurs the perception of security as a  public good and causes confusion about the boundaries of responsibility between the private and the public sector.Private security is inherently inequitable, because it is costly, rather than provided atlow/no cost by the state, making it inaccessible to the poorest. This may serve toexacerbate tensions within society, especially where they relate to a class or economicconflict. Additionally, allegations of misconduct by PSC personnel or of inappropriatelinks between PSCs and political parties or paramilitaries are frequent. 21 Mostimportantly, perhaps, the domestic private security industry is largely unregulated andthus often hires poorly trained and inadequately screened guards. The absence of appropriate regulation and state policies may reinforce rather than alleviate existingsocial divisions and tensions. 22  In Timor-Leste, the Ministry of Defence and Security has the responsibility for authorizing the formation of PSCs and supervising their activities. 23 There are nospecific regulations governing the activities of PSCs operating in Timor-Leste,although one of the aims of the Security Sector Review in Timor-Leste project—run by UNMIT in collaboration with UNDP, as well as the Secretary of State for Security —is to promote professionalism within the private security industry. It makes policyrecommendations for ensuring that the sector plays an effective role in the socio-economic development of the country. It is not clear what action, if any, has beentaken to pursue this aim to date.4
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