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SOUTH AFRICA: Trade Group Blasts Anti-Mercenary Laws as 'Threat to Peace'

A trade group representing US, European and South African private security companies is lobbying to put pressure on the South African government to drop tough new anti-mercenary legislation now before parliament.

by Peter Fabricius Independent Online
November 15th, 2005

A body representing American, European and South African private security companies is lobbying the United States and some European governments to put pressure on the South African government not to pass tough new anti-mercenary legislation which is now before parliament.

The International Peace Operations Association said the Bill would undermine the role being played by South Africans in peace-building missions worldwide.

The association is a Washington-based umbrella body of private security companies in the US, Europe and South Africa.

Association President Doug Brooks said the Bill was so broad that it could even undermine United Nations peace operations.

'Bill was so broad that it could even undermine United Nations peace operations'
The Bill forbids South African nationals from participating in armed conflict areas without the permission of the government.

According to the association, there are more than 5 000 South African nationals involved in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti.

Brooks said if the Bill were passed, "these individuals can face prosecution when they return home".

He made it clear that the International Peace Operations Association's opposition to the Bill was not meant to hide any of the operations of South Africans from the government.

"The SA government wants transparency within the industry. We've suggested a panel of experts... human rights people. Put them all in a panel and let them look at all contracts that involve SA nationals," said Brooks.

The Prohibition of Mercenary Activity and Prohibition and Regulation of Certain Activities in an Area of Armed Conflict Bill could come into force early next year.

Parliament has already invited interested people to make submissions on it. In an explanatory memorandum to the Bill the Defence Ministry said it was largely directed at the many South African security experts working in Iraq.

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