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18 April, 2016

UK defense contractor ‘employed former child soldiers’ as mercenaries in Iraq

According to a documentary movie, UK’s Aegis Defense Services employed former child soldiers from Sierra Leone as ‘the cheapest soldiers globally’.

A British private military company Aegis Defense Services, contracted by US Department of Defense to provide security to Project and Contracting Office (PCO), a division of the Department of Defense in Iraq. A documentary by Danish director Mads Ellesøe reveals that approximately 2,500 Sierra Leonean personnel who were recruited by Aegis and other private security companies to work in Iraq included former child soldiers.

When war gets outsourced, then the companies try to find the cheapest soldiers globally,” Ellesøe said. “Turns out that that is former child soldiers from Sierra Leone. I think it is important that we in the west are aware of the consequences of the privatization of war.

James Ellery, who was a director of Aegis Defense Services between 2005 and 2015, acknowledged that Aegis recruited personnel from Sierra Leone because they were cheaper than Europeans. The firm, however, never checked if they were former child soldiers, he said. According to Ellery, it would be “quite wrong” to ask whether people had ever been child soldiers, as it would penalize people for things they had often been forced into doing. He pointed out that under UN rules, child soldiers are not liable for war crimes.

Sierra Leone was a convenient source of recruits because of “high unemployment and a decent workforce”, he said.

Founded in 2002 by Tim Spicer, the former Scots Guards officer, notorious for supplying weapons in Sierra Leone to support local government, Aegis Defense Services is now led by Sir Nicholas Soames, a Tory MP and a grandson of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The documentary called “The Child Soldier’s New Job” will be broadcasted on Denmark television on Monday, April 18.

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