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    South Asia
     Oct 6, 2009
Page 1 of 2
Sex and security in Afghanistan
By David Isenberg

A report by the Washington, DC, Project on Government Oversight recently released publicly tells of the wild naked antics of members of ArmorGroup (AG), which has a United States State Department contract to provide security for the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Hardly mentioned is the use of local bordellos by some contractors. It took a lawsuit filed on September 9 by James Gordon, a former ArmorGroup director of operations, and subsequent whistleblower, against ArmorGroup North America

 

and associated defendants - ArmorGroup International (AGI), Wackenhut Services Inc (WSI), and various management individuals - to bring details to light. Among other things he charges that AG:
  • Allowed AGNA managers and employees to frequent brothels notorious for housing trafficked women in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and shutting down the plaintiff's efforts to investigate and put a stop to these violations.
  • Deliberately withholding documents relating to violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act allegedly committed by AGNA's program manager and other AGNA employees when responding to a document demand from US Congressman Henry Waxman on behalf of the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

    This is not the first time issues of private military and security contractors and sex have come up. But the pattern of not doing anything when offenses are reported remains depressingly familiar.

    As an article in the winter issue of the Wisconsin International Law Journal recounts, in 2000, employees of DynCorp Inc, a Virginia-based private military security company (PMSC) employed by the United Nations Police Task Force in the Balkans, were accused of participating in a Bosnian sex slavery ring. Kathryn Bolkovac, a DynCorp employee working as a UN Police Force monitor, reported to her supervisors that her male colleagues had made comments about women they owned. Bolkovac was fired soon after.

    It is worth noting that investigations of DynCorp had begun before Bolkovac became involved. In 1999, Bosnian police launched an investigation after local media reported that five male DynCorp employees had purchased female prostitutes from a Serbian organized crime outfit. The Bosnian government informed the commander of the US Regional Task Force of the allegations and the army requested that DynCorp remove the five men within 48 hours.

    DynCorp transferred the accused to Germany for investigatory interviews in response to evidence that the accused employees had not only consorted with local mobsters and warned them of imminent raids, but had actually engaged in trafficking themselves. Having effectively removed them from the jurisdiction of the Bosnian police, DynCorp then released the employees without alerting American or international law-enforcement officials of the allegations against them. This satisfied the army.

    But at least seven other DynCorp employees, including a supervisor, continued to engage in sex crimes. After overhearing a fellow helicopter mechanic brag, "My girl's not a day over 12," then-DynCorp employee Ben Johnston reported this and other trafficking-related activities to the Army Criminal Investigative Command (CID) at Camp Comanche in Dubrave, Bosnia.

    The CID began an investigation, but quickly determined that the American military did not have jurisdiction over UN contractor employees. Alerted by CID, the Bosnian police began an investigation, but mistakenly believed that they, too, lacked jurisdiction to arrest UN Task Force contractor employees. By the time the Bosnian police did move to make arrests, the employees in question had been transferred beyond the reach of local authorities. Like Bolkovac, Johnston was fired. His supervisors claimed that he had discredited the company by bringing unsubstantiated charges against his coworkers and that he had "brought discredit to [Dyncorp] and to the US Army".

    In late 2002, Bolkovac won 10,000 pounds sterling (US$16,000 at the current rate) in damages after a British tribunal found that DynCorp Aerospace UK Ltd, a subsidiary of DynCorp, violated the United Kingdom's whistle-blowing statute - the Public Interest Disclosure Act of 1998 - when the company fired her. DynCorp then agreed to settle a suit brought by Ben Johnston two days before the case went to trial in Texas. The amount of his settlement is confidential.

    Nine of the employees investigated by CID and transferred out of the country by DynCorp were Americans. Only seven were fired and none were criminally prosecuted. The employee who had claimed to own a 12-year-old sex slave was among those investigated and allowed to remain with the company. CID agents escorted another man to the airport from where he was flown out of the country.

    While still in Bosnia, the man had admitted that he had purchased a Moldovan woman and an Uzi from a local bartender active in the Serbian mob. The employee was subsequently released from his job with DynCorp but was never charged with any crime. Unless the implicated employees return to Bosnian jurisdiction, they cannot be arrested or tried for the trafficking and related sex crimes they committed in 2000.

    In a foreshadowing of the current situation with ArmorGroup, Dyncorp denied any culpability. However, it did admit to a battle to control its employees. Back then, DynCorp's selection procedures for choosing employees to work in Bosnia, which the company claimed was very rigorous and detailed, and subsequent procedures for checking their conduct in the field, failed to separate, or later identify, those who were likely, or did, take advantage of the situation and purchased prostitutes.

    DynCorp was not particularly hurt by the scandal. A few weeks after Bolkovac won her damages, the British government announced a Ministry of Defense contract award to a consortium that included DynCorp to supply support services for military firing ranges.

    In 2003, it a won multi-million-dollar contract to help train Iraqi police in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. Although mindful of what happened in Bosnia, personnel recruited had to acknowledge in writing that human trafficking and involvement with prostitution "are considered illegal by the international community and are immoral, unethical and strictly prohibited".

    For all the claims of the private military and security sector that they don't condone such behavior, it is important to note the difference between the private and public sectors. A 2005 study "Barracks and Brothels: Peacekeepers and Human Trafficking in the Balkans" by the Washington, DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted that in 2004, the US Department of Defense (DoD), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the United Nations each adopted a zero-tolerance policy on trafficking. It also noted that each of these organizations "has been reluctant to address the security implications of misconduct by uniformed service members and civilian contractors, especially involving human rights abuses".

    The report noted that the DoD's Inspector General's formal investigation in 2003 into complicity of DoD personnel in the Balkans was superficial and pro forma. Had DoD personnel followed the leads they were given, they would have found evidence of civilian contractor complicity in human trafficking.

    In August 2007, there was a brief flap when "Tori" the Escort, from Atlanta, Georgia, announced she was going to be in Baghdad's Green Zone for an extended tour. Her post on an escort review message board read, "While in the IZ, I am in a unique position of entertaining from a secured compound. I'm entertaining all members of the PMC [private military contractors] community registered with PSCAI [Private Security Company Association of Iraq] with a few stipulations. My compound is within the central population and easy to find."

    In a statement, Lawrence Peter, director of PSCAI, said Tori's use of the group's name and logo were unauthorized. "We have not, nor ever will, condone the type of activity suggested," he said. "We are currently investigating the source of these allegations and any association member found promoting, condoning or participating in these activities will be immediately expelled."

    With events like these as background it is instructive to consider current events.

    According to Gordon's lawsuit on or about November 8, 2007, ArmorGroup North America deputy program manager Jimmy Lemon informed Gordon and Puja Power, the acting director of Human Resources, that AGNA's armorer (the official in charge of the upkeep of small arms, machine guns and ammunition) was not properly performing his duties and had recently been forcibly removed during work hours from a brothel in Kabul. Gordon instructed Ms Power to initiate action to terminate him at once.

    A short time later, Power reported to Gordon that when she confronted the armorer about his misconduct, he stated that he could not be terminated because program manager Nick du Plessis and medic Neville Montefiore had frequented these brothels with him.

    Gordon knew that the procurement of commercial sex acts by AGNA employees violated the laws of the United States and the Kabul Embassy contract. He was concerned both because the frequenting of brothels by AGNA personnel raised security concerns about the guard force's ability to safeguard the US Embassy and because it was well known that young Chinese girls were trafficked to Kabul for commercial sexual exploitation, in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The act and its implementing regulations prohibit contractors, like ArmorGroup and their employees, from engaging in severe forms of trafficking in persons and from procuring commercial sex acts during the period of performance of the contract.

    According to the US State Department's 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report, Afghanistan is a destination for women and girls from China, Iran and Tajikistan trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation. Afghan children also are trafficked within the country for sexual exploitation.

    Gordon was especially alarmed because the program manager himself, the top manager in Kabul overseeing the guard force, had been identified as a participant in these unlawful activities. Gordon realized that if AGNA did not conduct a thorough investigation and terminate the wrongdoers, members of the guard force would perceive AGNA's inaction as a license to engage in similar unlawful activities.

    Gordon immediately reported the information he had received from Power to AGNA president Karl Semancik and to the Department of State (DoS) and recommended that AGNA's corporate management commence a thorough investigation of the matter. Gordon proposed that either he or AGNA's deputy director of operations, Gregory Vrentas, a former US Army Lieutenant Colonel with the Office of Military Cooperation-Afghanistan, direct the investigation. Semancik concurred that this was the appropriate course of action.

    Continued 1 2  

  •  


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