10 Mar 2005

UN mercenaries official seeks assurances from Fiji government

4:30 pm on 10 March 2005

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Mercenaries says the Fiji public wants a government assurance that Fijians working in Iraq are not acting as mercenaries.

There are reported to be as many as two thousand Fiji men working in Iraq under contract to such firms as Global Risk Strategies, Homeland Security and Triple Canopy.

The UN Special Rapporteur, Shaista Shameem, says she is still waiting for a response to a letter she wrote to the Fiji Government on the matter last November.

Dr Shameem says there is huge scope for individuals to be lured by lucrative salaries to work in trouble spots throughout the world.

She says she wants to make sure the Fiji Government can monitor the activities of such firms in Fiji and their employees abroad.

"Mercenary activity is rampant throughout the world. It adds to conflict, it extends conflict, it violates human rights and therefore if any government is not aware of the citizens engaging in this sort of activity it poses huge potential for extending conflict and also violating human rights throughout the world."

A Fiji lawyer is backing a call for the Fiji Government to answer concerns that Fiji nationals working under contract in Iraq are not acting as mercenaries.

Tevita Fa, a lawyer who has acted for Fijians employed as security officers in Iraq by British firm Global Risk Strategies, says it's a valid question.

These recruitment agencies are recruiting people here as security guards. What is happening at the other end noone knows. They may well become mercenaries the moment they arrive in Iraq. But only these recruiting agencies and the people who are involved would know.

Tevita Fa says people in Fiji do not know what the term mercenary means and where the work of a security guard would stop and the duties of a mercenary begin.