19 October 2010A United Nations group of independent human rights experts today called for stronger supervision of United States private security contractors working in Afghanistan and elsewhere, welcoming a recent US report into the role and oversight of these companies. A United Nations group of independent human rights experts today called for stronger supervision of United States private security contractors working in Afghanistan and elsewhere, welcoming a recent US report into the role and oversight of these companies.The findings of the report by the US Senate Committee on Armed Services are consistent with that of the experts following their visit to Afghanistan last April, said Alexander Nikitin, the chairperson of the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries.He noted that the US study revealed the many problems raised by the absence of adequate oversight over the private military and security companies contracted by the US Government in Afghanistan.“Because of the lack of effective vetting procedures, in particular, some of these companies employed individuals who may have been involved in human rights abuses in the past and continued to be involved in human rights violations while employed by these companies,” Mr. Nikitin said.The Working Group noted during its visit to Afghanistan that former armed elements, whether considered to be warlords or anti-government elements, were not effectively prevented from registering as employees of officially licensed private security companies.Given the lack of systematic and effective vetting and training procedures, and the absence of adequate sanctions in case of violations, the UN expert body had recommended that governments contracting private security companies in Afghanistan establish adequate oversight and accountability mechanisms.During the Group’s visit to the US in July last year, it also recommended that the Government establish a more vigorous vetting procedure before awarding contracts. “The problems faced in Afghanistan illustrate once again the importance of and the pressing need for a strong system of regulation and oversight of private military and security companies,” said Mr. Nikitin.“The matters discussed in the United States Senate report are too important to be left to self-regulation of companies,” he stressed. “While voluntary codes of conduct for private contractors are welcome, they are not sufficient to ensure that States regulate and monitor the activities of the companies they contract to carry out State functions, and establish accountability mechanisms to address human rights violations,” he added.Last month, the Group presented a draft text for a new convention on the regulation of private military and security companies to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.“The self-regulatory codes of conduct of the security industry have failed in the past 10 years to establish effective accountability,” said Mr. Nikitin. “In this regard, we hope that all States, including the United States where many private military and security companies are established, will seriously consider participating in the process initiated by the Human Rights Council aimed at setting up an international regulatory framework for private military and security companies.”The Working Group was established in 2005 and comprises five independent experts serving in their personal capacities. They are: Alexander Nikitin, Amada Benavides de Pérez, José Luis Gómez del Prado, Najat al-Hajjaji and Faiza Patel.
TWO PEOPLE WERE killed and at least 22 others were injured late last night when gunfire rang out at a large house party in a Houston suburb, sending partygoers fleeing in panic, authorities said.More than 100 people, mostly young adults, had gathered at a home in Houston suburb of Cypress, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. The gunfire happened between 11:30 pm and midnight, the sheriff’s office said.A man and woman died — one at the scene and another at a hospital — and those hurt had injuries ranging from minor to critical, the sheriff’s office said. None of the victims were identified by name.Two suspects were being sought early Sunday, but officials did not elaborate. There was no immediate word on how many shots were fired or a possible motive.“It was a pretty chaotic scene,” Sheriff’s Office spokesman Thomas Gilliland told the Houston Chronicle, adding that deputies saw some people lying on the ground and others running.Karen Briones was visiting relatives in the neighborhood, which is about 25 miles northwest of downtown Houston.“Girls were crying and screaming, banging on people’s doors asking them for help and to call 911,” she told the newspaper.The sheriff’s statement said those hurt were taken to at least five area medical centers or hospitals, some by paramedics and some in private vehicles. Gilliland told the newspaper that some people were shot in the foot, ankle and hip, and others fleeing the home had twisted ankles.Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Christina Garza told the Chronicle that at least one parent was in the house and that investigators were trying to determine if alcohol had been served at the party.Read: Gunman opens fire in New Jersey shopping centreRead: Man rushed to hospital in friend’s car after Dublin shooting