Archive for category Legal News

Legal News: Did Russia Just Legalize PMSC’s?

I am at the ends of my research on this. What I wanted to do is put this out there to see if anyone has anything to add to this? I do not speak or read Russian or follow Russian legal stuff. I do try to follow what countries are actually doing with private forces though.

In the past I have posted about Russia wanting to legalize PMSC’s and the legal effort seemed to go nowhere. The Slavonic Corps in Syria highlighted the idea that legally speaking, Russian law had not caught up with Russia’s use of PMSC’s.  I believe that Ukraine and Syria have become testbeds for Russia’s use of private forces, and it makes sense that their use would finally be legalized.

The other reason why I bring this up, is apparently Russia has been awarding medals to contractors that were killed in places like Syria? That sounds like official recognition of private forces to me.

Back to this Law No. 53 mentioned below. Does it cancel out Article 348 of the Russian Criminal Code, which makes mercenary work illegal? I only have this one article from Zeit Online that talks about this deal. Here is the clip below.  –Matt

Edit: 02/08/2017 RT reported that the Duma passed some legislation in December of last year, which aligns with the time period that Zeit discusses. Check it out here.

A Little Known Change in the Law (February 6, 2017)

Two days before the new year, Vladimir Putting signed a legal amendment. The state-aligned media reported very little about the development and the foreign press hasn’t covered it at all yet. But it could have far-reaching consequences. The change was made to Law No. 53, pertaining to military conscription in Russia. Following the change, the law now states that anyone who has completed basic military service or is a reservist is to be considered a member of the Russian military if that person “prevents international terrorist activities outside the territory of the Russian Federation.”

Given that almost every man in Russia completes military service after finishing school, the new law pertains to almost all Russian men. If they fight against terrorists, they are now considered to be members of the military, even if they don’t officially belong to a unit of the Russian military under the control of the Defense Ministry. In other words: Law No. 53 permits the deployment of Russian mercenaries around the world and allows for augmenting the Russian military with private military firms. The law went into force on Jan. 9, 2017.

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Legal News: Robert Langdon Is Pardoned!

When I heard the news about Robert Langdon being pardoned and released, I was floored. I originally wrote about Robert back when he was imprisoned, and I was trying to get some attention on his case. I mean this guy was sentenced to death at one point, and it is truly remarkable that not only has he survived that system but has been pardoned and released. What a horrible ordeal and I am just glad that he is home with his family.

I also wanted to highlight the outstanding work that Kimberley Motley and Stephen Kenny (the family lawyer) have put into this case. Kimberley is actually licensed to practice law in Afghanistan and has been fighting that pathetic legal system for quite awhile to free contractors that have been wrongly imprisoned. (Bill Shaw and Philip Young are two such examples) I have written about her good work in the past and I think one day, we will see a movie made about her. Truly a legal rock star.

As to Robert Langdon’s story, probably what jumped out at me was the hardships and survival strategies he had to employ as a prisoner at Pul-e-Charkhi prison. Here is a quote from one of the stories below.

In prison, Mr Langdon was under constant threat of violence and was regularly attacked. During his final months in jail, he used a padlock to lock himself in a stinking cell. He had a smuggled mobile phone and a knife he had fashioned from a piece of steel.

I don’t know if he had SERE training in the military, but it sounds like if he had, it would have been very helpful in surviving this prison. Especially being the only expat and especially when some of his cellmates were Al Qaeda and Taliban. Amazing that he survived. –Matt

 

Robert Langdon Free

Lawyer Kimberly Motley signs release papers for Robert Langdon, who spent more than seven years in Kabul’s maximum-security prison. Picture: Jessica Donati, The Wall Street Journal

 

Robert Langdon: Last Western prisoner held in Afghanistan pardoned, flown home to Australia
By Michael Edwards
9 Aug 2016
A former Australian soldier has been released from an Afghan jail after serving seven years for murder.
Robert Langdon initially received a death sentence in 2009 but always maintained his innocence, claiming he killed in self-defence.
His family, after spending years campaigning for his freedom, received the news this week that a presidential pardon had been granted and he was on his way home.
“He certainly has been released and the family, of course, are very very pleased about that,” family lawyer Stephen Kenny said.
Mr Langdon was initially convicted for shooting Afghan colleague Karimullah, when a dispute arose while they were escorting a convoy to an American military base in mid-2009.
He was found guilty of killing the man, and then trying to blame the murder on a Taliban ambush.
The Australian was also accused of setting fire to the dead man’s body and trying to flee the country.
Mr Langdon was sentenced to death but later had his sentence reduced to a 20-year jail term after his family reportedly paid the family of the dead man a substantial sum of money in compensation.

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Legal News: AdvantFort And The MV Seaman Guard Ohio Incident

In 2013, one of AdvanFort’s vessels, the MV Seaman Guard Ohio, was transporting its security guards between missions when it was boarded by Indian Police and its crew arrested on suspicion of illegally possessing weapons and illegally taking on fuel.
Two years on and the men, who have spent months in Indian jails and been barred from leaving the country as legal arguments flow back and forth, claim they have been left high and dry by their employer.
The men, who each earned about £3,000 a month, have not been paid since their arrest and AdvanFort has also failed to pay any of their mounting legal costs, according to Lisa Dunn, the sister of detainee Nick Dunn.
A recent hotel bill of about £12,000 was left unpaid by the firm.
“These men are dealing with the consequences for something they haven’t done,” Ms Dunn said.

This is another legal story that needs to get out there. These men have been rotting away in an Indian jail while the trials and politics keep driving this thing. It is ridiculous. What is also ridiculous is how horribly AdvantFort has handled this. (See the quote up top) I imagine the former contractors and family will be pursuing legal action against the company after India finally lets them go. –Matt

 

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Families of Britons facing Indian weapons charges speak out
19 October 2015
The families of British men facing trial in India on weapons charges have spoken out on the second anniversary of their arrest.
John Armstrong, from Wigton, Cumbria, and Nick Dunn, of Ashington, Northumberland, were among six Britons working as maritime security guards on a ship monitoring pirates.
The charges were dropped, but following an appeal by police the Indian Supreme Court ruled a trial must be staged.
It is due to begin shortly.
‘Remain positive’
The men were employed by American-based anti-piracy firm AdvanFort which charges clients up to £60,000 a time for armed guards to escort ships across a high-risk area between the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea known as Pirate Alley.
The MV Seaman Guard Ohio was transporting its security guards between missions when it was boarded by police and its crew arrested on suspicion of illegally possessing weapons and illegally taking on fuel.
Mr Armstrong’s sister, Joanne Thomlinson, said: “We tried not to think about the second anniversary too much. I think it’s better to look forward and try to focus on the trial and remain positive.
“I don’t think we’ve got Christmas as a goal [for him to return home] in our heads. It’s difficult to put a timeframe on what’s happening.”
Mr Dunn’s sister, Lisa, told BBC Newcastle: “It affects us every single second of every single day and has done for two years.”

Story here.

AdvanFort accused of abandoning British men facing India trial
7 September 2015
AdvanFort is a maritime security firm that operates anti-piracy escorts in high risk areas
As six British maritime security guards prepare to face trial in India charged with illegal possession of weapons, the company they were working for is accused of abandoning them. But did AdvanFort put the men at risk of being arrested by breaching international laws?
AdvanFort is an American-based anti-piracy firm that charges clients up to £60,000 a time for armed guards to escort ships across a high-risk area between the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea known as Pirate Alley.

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Legal News: Free Raven 23

Well it is good to be back home and I have been playing catch up on the latest news coming from the PMSC world.  On Facebook and Linkedin I have been able to connect with lots of great people and friends, and I have been getting some outstanding information from the community.

For my first post on the blog I found this outstanding organization being run by the friends and family of Raven 23 and I wanted to get their message out there. For those that do not know who Raven 23 are, here is a quick run down of what happened to them from their support website.

Paul Slough, Dustin Heard, Nick Slatten and Evan Liberty set out with 15 of their Blackwater teammates as part of Tactical Support Team Raven 23, to secure a busy square in Baghdad’s Red Zone. Blackwater, under contract with the U.S. Department of State, was responsible (among other things) for diplomatic security in the country of Iraq.

Raven 23 was responding to a distress call from another team which had been attacked on venue. In the distance, they could see the large plume of black smoke where a VBIED (vehicle-born improvised explosive device) had been detonated. They were to secure a route of egress through Nisour Square, which was a task they had completed numerous times previously; a seemingly straightforward task. Unfortunately, things haven’t been straightforward since.

After all four vehicles in the convoy had taken up their positions in the square, a white Kia lurched out of stopped traffic towards the convoy, and the security team used escalating force to stop the vehicle. They had to consider the risk of this vehicle also being a VBIED very seriously, as coordinated attacks were on the rise. There was a pattern developing where enemy forces would make an attack for the sole purpose of perpetrating a second, larger attack on responding forces. Eight team members, not including the four defendants, testified that they either perceived the white Kia to be a threat, or that they agreed that from other points of view in the convoy that it could be perceived a threat. No one should have been convicted of anything related to the white Kia based on this testimony alone, but that is only a fraction of the story.

The four vehicles were set up in a moon shape stretching along the southern side of the traffic circle. The third vehicle (the Command Vehicle), which contained three of the defendants (Liberty, Slatten & Slough) was facing directly into the south of the square, broadside to all oncoming traffic in that direction.

Almost simultaneously to the white Kia threat, the convoy began receiving incoming small arms fire (AK-47), disabling the Command Vehicle which subsequently had to be towed. The side of the vehicle was pock marked by the incoming fire, and a teammate in the vehicle behind began yelling that they were taking contact (fire) from people dressed as Iraqi Police. Whether or not they were actually employed as Iraqi Police we will never know, as IP uniforms are as readily available in the street markets of Iraq as fake designer bags are on the side streets of Washington, D.C.

All of the incoming fire, and the fact that it was coming from people dressed as Iraqi Police, was documented on the team’s contact logs. To believe that the team was not under attack would be to believe that multiple individuals either scripted the entire thing in advance or that they ad-libbed an entire attack while simultaneously participating in a one-sided gunfight, both of which are entirely ludicrous, and contrary to eyewitness testimony and physical evidence.

A complicated firefight ensued as the team hooked up a tow rope from one vehicle to the other, and tried to exit the circle to the north. The exit was made even more complicated by the fact that part of the circle was closed to traffic due to repairs being made from a VBIED just a few months prior. Eventually, almost ten minutes later, the team was able to exit the circle and return to the Green Zone.

What I wanted to share was the touching and impactful video that the friends and family put together, to present their side of the case.  To highlight the politics, and the inconsistencies presented by the prosecution. The full weight and force of the US government legal system was brought to bear on these men, and I feel it is only right to present their side of the whole deal.

If you feel like supporting Free Raven 23, I have provided some links to their website and FB page. From there you can sign petitions and donate money to help out the families.  –Matt

 


 

Website for Free Raven 23 here.

Facebook page for Free Raven 23 here.

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Legal News: Leahy, Price Reintroduce CEJA Bill

Interesting news on the legal front. The Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act has been brought up before in the past to give DoJ the jurisdiction necessary to prosecute non-military related contractors. Which is a significant portion of US government contractors. This group would include DoS or ‘other government agency’ type contractors, and this legislation would close that gap. Currently the MEJA covers military related contractors.

Why this is important, and especially now, is that contractors currently work in countries where they are not covered by a SOFA or have immunity. They are basically at the mercy of the local judicial process.  CEJA, like MEJA, would give the US government jurisdiction over contractors that it hires for work in these countries that have no SOFA in place to cover them. Iraq is an example of such arrangement and WPS guys and embassy protection forces are there, currently working for DoS.  CEJA would give jurisdiction for prosecution to the US government.

In other words, if you ran into trouble, would you rather be tried in a US legal system or some overseas third world court run by corrupt officials?

Another point with the CEJA is that it further legitimizes the PMSC industry. It helps to take away that argument that we are somehow ‘above the law’ or untouchable. Clients of our services will benefit from having a protective force that can be held accountable.

It will also contribute to a speedier trial. Just ask the contractors involved with the Nisour Square incident, that have been in a legal mess for years. The legal jurisdiction has been a factor.

So we will see where this goes. One critique I do have in regards to this press release is the mention of Jamie Leigh Jones and her case. Whereas the jurisdictional questions about her case are valid to bring up, I find it disingenuous to not mention the fact that she lied about the whole thing.

To read up on the past issues with the CEJA, check out David Isenberg’s commentary on it over the years. Here is a copy of the latest bill and the Congressional Research Service wrote a report on the particulars of why a CEJA is the right thing to do. We will see how the committee treats this one. –Matt

 

Senator Patrick Leahy in a committee.

 

Leahy, Price introduce legislation to hold American contractors overseas accountable
News Release — Sen. Patrick Leahy

July 14, 2014
Contact:?Jessica Brady (w/Leahy) – 202-224-7703?Andrew High (w/Price) – 202-225-1784
Also helps lay groundwork for eventual preclearance arrangements in restoring Vermont-to-Montreal passenger rail service??WASHINGTON (MONDAY, July 14, 2014) – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Congressman David Price (D-N.C.) renewed their partnership on bicameral legislation to provide accountability for American contractors and government employees working abroad.
The Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA), which the lawmakers introduced Monday, would close a gap in current law and ensure that government employees and contractors working overseas can be prosecuted for criminal acts they commit abroad. The two lawmakers have worked together on the legislation for years.
The legislation allows the U.S. Justice Department to prosecute government contractors and employees for certain crimes committed overseas. Tragedies like the 2007 killing of unarmed civilians in Baghdad by private security contractors with Blackwater underscore the need for clear jurisdiction and trained investigative and prosecutorial task forces able to hold wrongdoers accountable. Four Blackwater guards involved in the Nisour Square shooting are currently on trial.
“The Blackwater trial is only just now under way, seven years after this tragedy, and the defendants continue to argue in court that the U.S. government does not have jurisdiction to prosecute them,” Senator Leahy said. “This bill would also provide greater protection to American victims of crime, as it would lead to more accountability for crimes committed by U.S. government contractors and employees against Americans working abroad.”

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Legal News: GardaWorld’s Daniel Ménard Thrown In Afghan Jail

This is an interesting one that just popped up on my radar. I found it yesterday and posted it on Facebook, and I received multiple viewpoints on what is going on. Everything from it is all GardaWorld’s fault and Ménard is incompetent, to Gardaworld and Ménard is yet another victim of the Afghan legal system and corrupt officials.

For this deal, I was instantly reminded by the readership, as well as personally recalling all of Afghanistan’s past legal shenanigans.  Doug mentioned the Bill Shaw story where he was thrown in an Afghan jail on false bribery charges. Trevor mentioned the other GardaWorld story of some contractors that got arrested because they had 30 AK’s on them. Funny that, contractors with guns in a war zone? Of course this story was related to the APPF scheme of seizing the weapons of companies–without paying those companies for said weapons.

Another story mentioned was the arrest of Michael Hearn of Global Strategies Group for not registering their weapons. Those weapons according to the company, were parts guns that were not serviceable, used to repair other AKs.  I am sure there are other incidents that I am forgetting, but you get the idea. Kimberly Motley could probably add something to this conversation because of her extensive dealings with the Afghan legal system.

Some other stories of contractors wrongly thrown in Afghan jails include guys like Phillip Young, who thanks to Kimberly’s work, was set free. Another guy I have written about in the past was Robert Langdon, whom is still rotting away in prison.

The other interesting point on this story is Ménard’s  background. Michael Yon was highly critical of this leader back when he was a general in the Canadian Arm Forces posted in Afghanistan.  But even Michael’s current tone is one of being skeptical as to why he is in an Afghan jail.

I imagine the way this will work out is that he will stay in prison until the company or his family pays the fine. Hopefully he doesn’t stay in prison as long as Bill Shaw. Bill spent two years at Pul-e-Charkhi prison and was fined £16,185! Kimberly was also hot on this case and was instrumental in getting him released. –Matt

Edit: 02/19/2014- Daniel was released from detention. Story here.

 

 

 

Former Brigadier-General Daniel Ménard, the former head of Canadian forces in Afghanistan who now works for private security firm GardaWorld, was detained there since about Jan. 12.
By Allan Woods
Jan 29 2014
Former Canadian brigadier-general Daniel Ménard, who was fined and demoted for having a sexual relationship with a female subordinate, has been sitting in an Afghan jail for nearly three weeks, the Toronto Star has learned.
The former head of Canadian forces in the country, who now works for private security firm GardaWorld, was detained on or about Jan. 12. He was picked up by local authorities after leaving a meeting with Afghan government officials to discuss issues related to the development of Afghan security forces, Joe Gavaghan, a spokesman for the company, said in an interview Wednesday.
“He was leaving a meeting at the ministry office and a couple of officials approached him. They said, ‘We’ve got a problem with something and we’d like you to come with us to clear it up.’ Off he went and the next thing he knew he was going to be detained until they cleared it up.”
Ménard has not been charged with breaking any laws, Gavaghan said, adding the incident is based on an “administrative misunderstanding” related to its licence to operate in Afghanistan as a private security firm.
Gavaghan said the former commander of the 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, based out of CFB Valcartier, appeared in a Kabul court Wednesday.
“This involves some kind of administrative issue with our operating licence. It was kind of a technicality. It’s been cleared up and we believe that the individual is going to be released very shortly,” Gavaghan said.
“Right now we’re just trying to do everything we can to make sure there’s no further complications or anything that would delay that.”

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