10 Mar 2005

Fiji government silent on UN mercenary query

9:58 am on 10 March 2005

The United Nations special rapporteur on mercenaries has expressed alarm at the Fiji government's failure to explain the status of Fiji nationals being recruited for armed security jobs in Iraq.

Radio Fiji reports that Fiji national Dr Shaista Shameem, who received the UN appointment last year, has been facing difficulties getting answers from the government.

Dr Shameem, who is also the director of the Fiji Human Rights Commission, says there is great concern that these men may be used as mercenaries in armed conflict which may violate international law.

She says she relayed her concerns in a letter to the government three months ago.

Dr Shameem says "it is not good when a special rapporteur formally asks the government some questions and there is a deadly silence in response."

She says she has asked the government to provide some background about the men lured to Iraq by money and an assurance the Fiji nationals will not be used as mercenaries or hired guns.

Dr Shameem says the legal definition of the term has two elements - to be involved in armed conflict and to be under a paid contract.

Three Fiji registered companies - Global Risk Strategies, Homeland Security and Triple Canopy - employ Fiji nationals as armed security guards in Iraq.