War on Want: UK leads booming global private military industry

The UK multinational G4S is now the world’s largest private security company, and no fewer than 14 companies are based in Hereford, close to the headquarters of the SAS, from whose ranks at least 46 companies hire recruits, says the report by British-based charity War on Want.

The huge increase in the number of private military and security companies, with contracts running into billions of pounds, signals the return of the “dogs of war” (mercenary) era that followed the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, said John Hilary, executive director of War on Want.

Foreign Office spending on contracts with private UK security companies rose from £12.6m in 2003 to £48.9m in 2012, according to official figures.

The use of private armies and “floating armouries” by shipping companies is also growing, according to War on Want. Floating armouries are ships harboured at sea, stacked with high-powered rifles, night-vision goggles. …

Hilary of War on Want said: “Private military contractors ran amok in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving a trail of human rights abuses in their wake. Now we are seeing the alarming rise of mercenaries fighting on the frontline in conflict zones across the world: it is the return of the ‘dogs of war’.”

He added: “For too long this murky world of guns for hire has been allowed to grow unchecked. In letting the industry regulate itself, the government has failed: only binding regulation will do. The time has come to ban these companies from operating in conflict zones and end the privatisation of war.” …

The UN is drawing up plans for an international convention that is legally binding on private security and military companies. Switzerland bans companies based in the country from operating in conflict zones.

Britain is at centre of global mercenary industry, says charity