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Cristina Hernández Lázaro
Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) have been involved in a variety of conflicts worldwide, most notably since the end of the Cold War in the beginning of the 1990s. Nonetheless, after the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions in 2003, observers both inside and outside the humanitarian aid community, started noticing an increasing interest of the private military and security sector in entering the humanitarian sphere.
This article aims to describe the involvement of PMSCs in humanitarian actions, highlighting the lack of regulation and accountability when operating in those settings.
HUMANITARIAN ACTION ENTAILS THE PROVISION OF HUMANITARIAN AID, AS WELL AS THE PROTECTION OF VICTIMS AND THEIR FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS, THROUGH MONITORING AND ADVOCATING THE COMPLIANCE WITH INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW (IHL) AND INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW (IHRL)
Humanitarian action consists on the assistance to victims of disasters, including armed conflicts and natural catastrophes. It entails the provision of humanitarian aid (that is, the provision of basic goods and services) as well as the protection of victims and their fundamental rights, through monitoring and advocating the compliance with International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL).
One of the most relevant milestones in the evolution of humanitarian action is the 1968 Biafra famine. Due to a lack of presence of the UN and bilateral aid, humanitarian organizations intervened in alleviating the situation, being it the first humanitarian operation leaded by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Médicins Sans Frontiers (MSF) was founded as a consequence, and its creation was followed by a proliferation of aid organizations, such as Doctors of the World, Oxfam or CARE, along the decades of the 1970s and 1980s. In the following decade, during the 1990s, the end of the Cold War led to a greater development of the humanitarian sphere, both in terms of number of agencies and budget.
The purpose of IHL is to protect the wounded, sick and shipwrecked war prisoners or civilians from the armed forces during armed conflict situations. It is ruled by the Geneva Conventions (1949) as well as its Protocols I and II (1977). These Conventions confer to the ICRC the responsibility to supervise and monitor the application of IHL, as well as to promote and inform on the Fundamental Principles that guide humanitarian action. These principles are the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence. They ensure that humanitarian action is not interpreted as favorable to one of the parties in detriment of the other, and that assistance is provided to all victims regardless of their race, gender, political ideology or belonging to a determined social group.
The Fundamental Principles that guide humanitarian action are included in the statutes of the ICRC and of most humanitarian organizations. Nonetheless, there are no legally binding instruments to ensure the application of the Fundamental Principles.
Therefore, an essential tool in trying to ensure the compliance with these principles is that the organization commits itself to respect the Codes…
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Maria Soler Besumbes
During the last weeks, SHOCK MONITOR has actively contributed to gather information for two major events organized in Barcelona. On one side, the official launch of the report “Human Rights at the Spanish Southern Border” (2017 – 2018). On the other, the 45th Session of the Permanent People’s Tribunal on the violation of Human Rights of migrant and refugee people. These two civil society initiatives aimed to raise public awareness on the Human Rights implications of European’s Union current migration policies and, they have also highlighted the increasing role that private companies – among them, private military and security companies (PMSC) – have in the securitization of border control policies and in the violation of migrant’s rights related to the implementation of this racist and criminalizing politics.
In the current context of reinforcement of European Union’s policies on security, surveillance and border control, Spain has been the main pioneer in the construction of walls, by building its fences in Ceuta (1995) and Melilla (1998) along with other elements that conform the border devices, as well as an increasing militarization of the land and maritime borders.
The borders of Ceuta and Melilla have become a field experiment for the most cruel and inhuman policies of migration control at European level. In the Southern Spanish border the legal system applies rarely and on an arbitrary manner, and human rights are systematically violated with total impunity. Over the years, we have witnessed a growing fortification and armouring of Spanish borders, especially since 2005, during the Government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, when the military devices deployed in the fences preventing the arrival of migrants caused several unprecedented injuries and deaths.
To the injuries caused by the fences, we should also add the police violence, the brutality and misconduct and the so called “hot returns”.
ALL THESE OCCURS IN A CONTEXT OF STRUCTURAL AND SYMBOLIC VIOLENCE AND INSTITUTIONAL RACISM, FOCUSED ON THE CONTROL, SURVEILLANCE, DETENTION AND EXPULSION OF THE PEOPLE IN MOVEMENT
To the physical control measures, we should add the technological ones, mostly under the supervision of the Spanish Military police. These technologies include the “early movement detectors”; “flood and road lights”; “mobile cameras with optical and sound sensors”; “alarm lights and sirens”; or “the water pressure system with pepper spray”. In addition to these control systems, we should add anti-climb meshes that cover the outside of the fence and control towers placed at regular intervals.
Theses fencing devices cause injuries in many people when trying to climb it or as a result of falls. Both the organizations working in the Moroccan area and those working in Ceuta and Melilla mention that after an attempt to jump many people suffer severe, such as deep cuts, fractures, serious muscular injuries. Likewise, many people also end up injured as a result of the attacks of the Moroccan and Spanish military and police forces.
At the same time, the…