Starting next Monday, July 20, a five-member United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries will conduct a two-week examination of this country's use of private military and security contractors (PMSCs). Two members of the Working Group will meet with officials from the Obama administration, members of Congress, nongovernmental organizations (like the ACLU) and PMSCs. This official visit comes at the invitation of the U.S. government. From a statement released today:
The Working Group will in particular focus on questions of transparency and accountability of PMSCs and their personnel, instances and circumstances which may give rise to impunity of contractors for violations of human rights as well as guarantees for ensuring that victims of violations have access to effective remedies. It will also look into the general trend towards the privatization of war and its consequences.
Among those consequences is "extraordinary rendition"— the kidnapping and forced removal of individuals to places known to torture. The ACLU represents a group of such rendition victims in a lawsuit against a particular PMSC: Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan. In our lawsuit, we charge that Jeppesen knowingly participated in the rendition of our plaintiffs by providing flight planning and logistical support to the CIA to kidnap our plaintiffs to be detained and tortured in secret prisons overseas.
Today's New York Times editorialized about accountability for rendition, torture and other Bush-era war crimes:
Once the Bush team got into the habit of breaking the law, it became their operating procedure that any means are justified: ordering the nation’s intelligence agents to torture prisoners; sending innocents to be tortured in foreign countries; creating secret prisons where detainees were held illegally without charge.
Americans still don’t have the full story.
[…]President Obama has refused to open a full investigation of the many laws that were evaded, twisted or broken — pointlessly and destructively — under Mr. Bush. Mr. Obama should change his mind. A full accounting is the only way to ensure these abuses never happen again.
The Working Group's examination is a welcomed first step in shedding some light on the war crimes of the Bush administration. Attorney General Eric Holder is considering appointing a prosecutor to investigate these crimes. While the U.N. takes action on the international stage, there isn't a more critical time to have your voice heard here at home. Send Attorney General Holder evidence of torture, and demand accountability.