UN Uncovers Mercenary Recruitment in Peru

A UN working group recently investigated abuses by private security firms recruiting and training hundreds of Peruvians to work as mercenaries in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mercenaries are currently the second largest military force in Iraq, with numbers estimated as great as 50,000. Britain is next in line with 10,000 troops. This marks a shift from the "coalition of the willing" to a "coalition of the billing" used to complement the 130,000 strong U.S. occupying-force in Iraq.

The U.N. working group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the rights of peoples to self-determination visited Peru from Jan. 29 to Feb. 2. Last year the working group visited Ecuador and Honduras. Reports on these two countries are expected to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council at the end of March.

Accroding to the UN "mercenaries or mercenary-related activities are a threat to peace, security and the self-determination of peoples and an obstacle to the enjoyment of all human rights by peoples."

The UN working group, while in Peru, also investigated the case of a local priest involved in a struggle against a gold mine who claims to have been harassed by private security agents contracted by Yanacocha Mining Corporation, a subsidiary of the Denver-based Newmont Mining Corporation.

"We are worried about the involvement of security companies in cases of intimidation of defenders of environmental rights and in conflicts between the local population and mining companies," Amada Benavides, chair of the working group, told IPS.