Posts Tagged ICoC

Industry Talk: The Slavonic Corps–A Russian PMSC In Syria

“A large field between Lattakia and Tartous, surrounded by barbed wire. That is where our battalion and the Syrian reservists were stationed. It used to be a racecourse. We were housed in the former stables. By October there were 267 people from the ‘Slavonic Corps’, split into two companies. One company was made up of Kuban Cossacks, the other had people from all over Russia; there were 10 or 12 men from Petersburg. The bosses said that the numbers of the corps in Syria was expected to reach up to 2,000 men.”
In addition to assault rifles, the battalion received machine guns and grenade launchers. They had anti-aircraft guns, 1939 models. The mortars were from 1943. Crews were formed for the four T-72 tanks and some BMP (infantry fighting vehicles). The question of how appropriate the weapons were, for the task of protecting “facilities,” came up quickly, even from the most gullible, and was addressed. “Did you come to fight or to guard? Whoever guards is on eternal kitchen patrol.” Those were the words of the commander’s reply. The manager of the project was Vadim Gusev, known to many as the deputy director of Moran Security Group.

This is a unique story that I wanted to get out there for folks to check out. My post about Assad approving the use of PMSC’s was a record post on FJ, and stories like this are very interesting to the community. I also wanted to put this out so that those who were involved with this contract in Syria can respond. The last couple of weeks I have been asking around on FB and nothing has come up. I suspect that it is mostly a language deal and that Russians have not been hanging on English based FB groups. So hopefully this post will get their attention via Google Search.

Basically, this company was contracted to guard ‘and’ do other things in Syria, for the Assad side. Apparently the contractors recruited by this company were victim to the whole bait and switch game, and as soon as they got on the ground, the company changed the contract to a more kinetic operation . So the company I believe is at fault for not being honest in their recruitment from the get go, and not preparing their people for this kind of contract. As  a result, the Slavonic Corps had a poor showing in Syria, it was poorly led and managed, and the contract signed with the client was poorly written. The result was a company running out of Syria with it’s tale between it’s legs, and creating a bunch of unpaid and pissed off contractors. Here is a quote about recruitment:

This was never understood. “When they spoke to us in Russia, they explained that we were going on a contract with the Syrian government, they convinced us that everything was legal and in order. Like, our government and the FSB were on board and involved in the project. When we arrived there, it turned out that we were sent as gladiators, under a contract with some Syrian or other, who may or may not have a relationship with the government… That meant that we were the private army of a local kingpin. But there was no turning back. As they said, a return ticket costs money, and we’ll work it off, whether we like it or not.” As they told the Slavonic Corps troops, the job came down to maintaining control over the centre of the oil industry, in the town of Deir ez-Zor. In order to be in control of it, we had to reach it. More than 500 kilometres across territory occupied by government troops, by the opposition or by completely unknown forces.

Crazy, but this sounds way too familiar from my experience in contracting. But I am not going to let the contractors that signed up for this off that easy. These guys did not do their due diligence before accepting the contract. It sounded like the recruiters attracted a lot of desperate and naive folks who really wanted to believe this was a good deal. I wonder if the Russians have a forum or Facebook group to go to, so they can ask questions to their community about companies like the Slavonic Corps or the Moran Security Group? Because if they would have had a SOCNET or a Feral Jundi or an Eeben Barlow, they could have gotten some second opinions that would have squared them away.  Here is a great quote from another Russian PMSC called the RSB Group, about the idiocy of this contract:

In the words of the professional: This is a crazy scheme
After asking Vyacheslav Kalashnikov several times to speak on the subject of Syria, and having received no answer, Fontanka turned to the head of Russia’s largest private military company, the “RSB Group,” for comment. Oleg Krinitsyn is certain: the Syrian story of the Slavonic Corps was a crazy scheme from the start.
“The widely advertised campaign to recruit mercenaries for Syria initially sounded like a stunt, a kind of PR campaign. Later on, people believed it and were drawn to their dream – to make money. But not all of them understood that this money was dirty, and possibly bloody. Before sending people to a country where there is active fighting, where there is a virtual ‘layer cake’ of the Syrian Army, the opposition fighters, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra etc, it’s essential to prepare them, as well as to understand how to get them out of there. Among those guys, photographed against a backdrop of Syrian equipment, festooned with weapons, I noticed a few of our former employees, who had been dismissed because of their poor moral character. I saw guys with criminal records amongst them. This once again confirms that the aim of the recruiters was not to attract high quality professionals, but just to plug a ‘hole’ with cannon fodder, and fast. And the boys were sent on contracts that resembled contracts for suicide missions. Right away, people signed a contract that included a will to bury their remains in their homeland, or if that proved impossible, in the nation where they died, and then be reburied in Russia. Dreadful.

Luckily for these guys, they were saved by a sand storm. Having experienced these types of storms in the middle east, I can say these things can get pretty dense. Quote:

It could be regarded as a great success that, out of the whole corps, a total of six people were wounded, two of them seriously. It should be pointed out that all of the wounded were removed from the battlefield and returned home with all the others. “We were saved by a sandstorm, we were enveloped by it on our retreat, but it hid us from the local mujahedeen. There was so much sand that you couldn’t see anything. But thanks to that, we are alive.”

These guys also paid the price when after fighting their way out of Syria, they had to deal with authorities when they came back home. The FSB was heavily involved from the sounds of it and this is also an interesting angle to this story. One of the articles I posted below talked about the FSB connection to this company and contract:

For instance, the head of the Slavonic Crops was a commander in the FSB reserve. New York University professor Mark Galeotti has studied the way the Russian security apparatus operates. In an interview for The Interpreter on the topic, he told me that private military contractors would need to clear all such operations with the FSB, which would mean that the FSB has placed Syria on the list of nations where foreign operations were approved. Galeotti went even further. When asked whether he thought there were more Russian mercenaries fighting for the Assad government inside Syria, he said that this was “likely,” and it’s not just mercenaries who are helping Assad:
“I anticipate that ‘mercenary’ is merely a cover story for Russian soldier or spook, just as the “Russian engineers” working on Syrian air defense systems are going to be military.”
There is significant reason to believe that the FSB knew about the mission. But as Thursday’s story in Foreign Policy explains, the Russian government had good reason to clip the mercenaries’ wings:
It’s not hard to surmise why the FSB would have turned on a company it may have given tacit support to send men into Syria. The mercenaries performed poorly in the field, and proof of their illicit activity had been plastered all over the Internet, so not tossing Gusev and Sidorov in the clink might have caused the kind of scandal that even an unembarrassable Kremlin would want to avoid. Moscow has been outspoken in its criticism of U.S. and Arab arms transfers to Syria’s rebels, even as its own state arms export company dispatches more and more sophisticated hardware to Assad, according to the State Department’s Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria. The Kremlin is also trying to ensure that the imperiled Geneva II peace conference takes place in December, just in time for the regime to be in a much-strengthened negotiating position after a series of tactical gains on the battlefield.

So with that said, I think the Russians were anticipating that the West was going to make this into an ’embarrassing deal’ by plastering it all over the news. So for them, as soon as the whole thing went bad, they took the side of shock and disgust. Check out how they tried to whitewash this incident when these guys came back.

Despite the fact that, according to the contract, the assignment was supposed to last five months, in the last days of October the personnel were loaded onto two chartered planes and sent to Moscow. They were not expecting such a reception to be awaiting their arrival at Vnuknovo. As they disembarked the aircraft one by one, each fell into the hands of FSB officers. There was a quick inspection, the removal of SIM cards and any other media, and a brief questioning as witnesses. Then followed the removal of their passports, non-disclosure forms, and tickets home. Vadim Gusev, who had flown in business class and left the plane first, remained in the hands of the investigators. As they explained at the Moran Security Group, he and another employee of the company, Evgeny Sidorov, who was responsible for human resources, were arrested in a criminal case brought by the FSB’s metropolitan command under the never-before applied Article 359 of the Criminal Code – mercenary activities.

Did I mention that the contractors involved will not be getting paid the 4,000 dollars they were promised!…. Yikes, what a soup sandwich.

Well, that is about all I have on this one. Just some commentary on what has already been reported. If anyone has any interesting side notes on this story, I would be curious to hear about it. I also posted some links to the companies involved in this story and some good posts about the Slavonic Corps below. –Matt

Foreign Policy story on the Slavonic Corps.

Moran Security Group website here.

The Slavonic Corps website here.

War is Boring post about it here.

Pieter Van Ostaeyan’s blog about it here. (he was able to dig up some interesting stuff)

Youtube video of one of the contractors thought to be dead, that survived and posted this.



The Last Battle of the “Slavonic Corps”
The story of the Russian mercenaries who went to war against Syrian rebels.
By Denis Korotkov
Originally published by Fontanka on November 14, 2013
Translated by Pierre Vaux November 16, 2013
A Syrian rebel group claims that it has ambushed and killed a group of Russian mercenaries who may have been working for a Chinese security contractor. The jihadist fighters from an Al Qaeda affiliate “Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS)” claim to have killed the mercenaries in a battle near Homs. At least one of the mercenaries, however, has been videotaped alive and well, and living back in Russia.
The large and well-respected St. Petersburg newspaper, Fontanka, has published an article, translation by The Interpreter, entitled “St. Petersburg Sends Contractors to Syria.” It details the investigation that uncovered the existence of Russian mercenaries defending sensitive installations important to the Assad government in Syria. The contractors appear to have been recruited in St. Petersburg by a company based in Hong Kong.
We also know that the mercenaries appear to have been operating in As-Sukhnah, east of Palmyra, on the road between Deir Ez Zor and Homs. Jihadists have long wanted to capture the town, and nearby Palmyra, because securing this road would link their forces from the east to the west. The Assad regime, on the other hand, has had difficulty sparing the resources to defend the position, as it is far away from the major cities which are heavily embattled. According to the initial investigation by Fontanka, the mission of the mercenaries was to secure key regime assets, away from the front lines, in order for Assad forces to concentrate on removing “bandits” in other areas. However, it appears that the oil fields that the Russians were supposed to be guarding were in rebel control, and the team was really tasked with getting them back.
The following translation is an update from Fontanka. It says that one of the key players in the military contracting company is a reservist officer in the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), lieutenant colonel Vyacheslav Kalashnikov. The FSB, therefore, were aware on some level that the Moran Security Group was sending Russian mercenaries to Syria to fight for Assad. However, the mercenary group was shut down and several mercenaries were arrested upon their return to Russia. A major Russian contractor says that this was not an FSB mission, but a mission designed to look like an FSB mission. The insinuation is that a pro-rebel group hired the Russians in order to lead them into a trap, kill them, and show their bodies on television.
All of the pictures on the original Fontanka article were also posted in the one we already translated. Instead, these pictures of the Russian mercenaries were posted on a Russian social network (except the one that states it was from Fontanka). – Ed.

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Industry Talk: ASIS Receives ANSI Approval For World’s First Standard To Support The Code Of Conduct For PSC’s

“This remarkable international effort demonstrates the importance of this industry sector in support of peace and stability around the globe,” says Dr. Marc Siegel, commissioner, ASIS International Global Standards Initiative and chairman of the Technical Committee. “PSCs need to conduct their business and provide services in a manner that respects human rights and laws. The standard creates a differentiator for PSCs to assure quality of services while maintaining the safety and security of their operations with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Now this is cool. With ANSI approval, the ICoC is one step closer to being an ISO standard.  Or basically a standard that is officially recognized world wide as the standard to judge or pick a company by. So if a company in India meets the ISO standard, then a client from the US could contract with that group and know what that minimum standard that company is abiding by–in order to have that ISO standard.

It’s kind of like this. ISO has been crucial to the automobile industry. It is what allows the global market place for cars to exist.  If a car made in China is made to an ISO standard, then that car can be sold in another market/country that has the confidence that it is safe and built to a standard that is internationally recognized. So that is the angle here for PSC’s.

A standard also helps in the principal agent problem. If the principal will only work with companies that have an ISO stamp, and that agent knows that principals will not look at their company unless they have an ISO stamp of approval, then you can see where the value is to both parties. Without that standard, then a principal has to use other less efficient means of finding out who is good, and who is not. But the big one here is that the ISO would have value, because to not meet those standards would make you not marketable. Especially if one company in the US, wants to work for a client in Europe–both parties would know the standard that is expected.

Why standards matter (from the ISO website)
Standards make an enormous and positive contribution to most aspects of our lives.
Standards ensure desirable characteristics of products and services such as quality, environmental friendliness, safety, reliability, efficiency and interchangeability – and at an economical cost.
When products and services meet our expectations, we tend to take this for granted and be unaware of the role of standards. However, when standards are absent, we soon notice. We soon care when products turn out to be of poor quality, do not fit, are incompatible with equipment that we already have, are unreliable or dangerous.
When products, systems, machinery and devices work well and safely, it is often because they meet standards. And the organization responsible for many thousands of the standards which benefit the world is ISO.
When standards are absent, we soon notice.
ISO standards:
-make the development, manufacturing and supply of products and services more efficient, safer and cleaner
-facilitate trade between countries and make it fairer
-provide governments with a technical base for health, safety and environmental legislation, and conformity assessment
-share technological advances and good management practice
-disseminate innovation
-safeguard consumers, and users in general, of products and services
-life simpler by providing solutions to common problems
Check out the ISO Cafe for more examples of the impact of this system.

Very cool and we will see how it goes. We will see how long it takes to get from ANSI all the way up to ISO, but this is a big step closer to that goal. Good job to all involved and a big congrats to ASIS. –Matt


ASIS International Receives ANSI Approval for World’s First Standard to Support the Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers
Alexandria, VA
April 20, 2012
ASIS International(ASIS), the preeminent organization for security management professionals worldwide, received ANSI approval for its standard, Management System for Quality of Private Security Company Operations – Requirements with Guidance(ANSI/ASIS PSC.1-2012). Developed by a Technical Committee comprised of more than 200 members from 24 countries, this standard establishes a mechanism for Private Security Companies and their clients to provide demonstrable commitment, conformance, and accountability to the principles outlined in the International Code of Conduct (ICoC) for Private Security Service Providers.
Private Security Service Providers including Private Security Companies (collectively “PSCs”) play an important role in protecting state and non-state clients engaged in relief, recovery, and reconstruction efforts; commercial business operations; diplomacy; and military activity. The purpose of this standard is to improve and demonstrate consistent and predictable quality of services provided by PSCs while maintaining the safety and security of their operations and clients within a framework that aims to ensure respect for human rights, national and international laws, and fundamental freedoms.

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Industry Talk: Swiss Government Proposes Ban On Mercenary Firms, Except For The Swiss Guard?

The irony here is that the Swiss are famous for fielding one of the best and longest standing mercenary armies in the history of the business. Matter of fact, remnants of that force is still operating today, and they are called the Swiss Guard. Did I mention that this group is protecting the Pope at the Vatican? lol Although the Swiss Guard is now referred to as just a branch of the Swiss military, it still has historical significance. So I take it the Swiss will be pulling this force from duty at the Vatican after they implement their ban on mercenaries?

The other thing that must be mentioned is that Swiss flagged vessels will need security if they plan on continuing to do business out there. The kind of laws they should be focused on are the ones that will get armed security on boats, and give them the legal authority to do what they need to do to protect Swiss vessels. It’s either that, or Swiss ship owners will get a flag of convenience and go somewhere else in order to get security on their boats. –Matt



Swiss government proposes ban on mercenary firms, tighter rules for private security companies
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Switzerland wants to banish mercenary firms and tighten the rules for private security companies based in the country in a bid to safeguard its tradition of neutrality, the government said Wednesday.
A draft bill submitted to parliament would ban Swiss-based companies from direct participation in armed conflicts abroad, and from recruiting or training mercenaries in Switzerland.
The proposal, which lawmakers have until the end of January to consider, also requires private security companies to report their activities to Swiss authorities, and to abide by an international code of conduct.

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Industry Talk: So What Is Going On With The ICoC?

Ever since the news of all of these companies signing on to this International Code of Conduct, there hasn’t been much else reported. So I figured I would do a little research and see where they are at.

Low and behold, there is actually some interesting movement going on with the group. First, they have a website.  Excellent move and it sounds like they are getting organized. Below, I listed all of the members of the steering committee, and these are the folks that will decide how this thing is to work.

I thought it was interesting that they found representatives from all over. Here is a quote:

Michael Clarke, G4S
Mark DeWitt, Triple Canopy
Estelle Meyer, Saracen International
Sylvia White, Aegis

Yep, that list says it all. G4S is the largest security company in the world. Triple Canopy is a large US based company. Aegis is another huge company with offices all over. But Saracen International….Now that is interesting. I guess they are the largest company representing Africa?

The other news with the ICoC is that there are now 211 members!  Up top, I even started a page dedicated to ICoC members, and as more folks sign on, I will update. The list is in a Scribd format, and I think that makes very easy to scroll through and use.

But the real story here that I wanted to talk about, was the discussion in their latest minutes about the grievance process. My number one concern with groups like SAMI, ISOA, and now this ICoC group….as always….is what will they do about members who violate the standards? What is the crime, and what is the punishment?

It is one thing to get everyone to sign on to these codes of conduct, but if you have no disciplinary policy with teeth to back them up, then what’s the point? lol Seriously. Why make laws, if you plan not to enforcement or punish folks for doing bad things?

Now I am not saying that the ICoC is not going to punish members that screw up, but according to these minutes, it sounds like they are going to put the onus of punishment on the companies themselves first. Which is fine, but what if the company does not want to clean house, or maybe they just want to drag it out until everyone forgets about the grievance.

Of course companies should all strive to take care of business so that they are in accordance to the ICoC, as well as doing all they can to take care of their people and clients.  But if they have no fear of punishment, because the ICoC is not aggressive or is unwilling to get tough with members that pay dues, then you can kind of see the potential problems here. Which really boils down the question to this. Is the ICoC just words, or do those words actually mean something?

As you read through the minutes, the ICoC committee also mentioned the good offices concept and creating an incentive of some type for companies to actually do something about this stuff.  I had to look up good offices in the dictionary, and here is a quote:

Third-party influence that facilitates one party’s dealings with another.

So basically they will act as a mediator between the aggrieved and that company?  Interesting, and yet again, what interest would this office have to fight for the aggrieved?  Isn’t it a conflict of interest if a mediator is getting payment by one group in the form of dues/membership fees, and then claiming to help out the other side (the aggrieved) who does not pay dues?

Finally, I would really like to see the incentive(s) that the committee comes up with in future discussions, that will actually get companies to abide by the standards. Are we talking fines, or membership loss or suspension. How about a black list of bad companies?  What are we talking about here?

The big picture is pretty simple to spell out. Members get value when they sign on to this document, by enjoying the benefits of a gold seal of approval. Clients want to believe in that standard, and trust that they are actually doing business with a good company. Contractors want to believe that they are working for a company that actually cares about treating them properly, and this ICoC is a symbol of a companies desire to do good.

But with weak to non-existent enforcement of those standards, that gold seal of approval will turn into lead and clients, the public, and contractors will have no respect for what it stands for. Those are my thoughts on the matter…. –Matt

Edit: 10/12/2011- Here is a snippet from a recent article on the ICoC:

Motzouris says the ICoC does not dismiss the efforts of the Montreux Document, rather it builds upon the base developed by the Montreux Document in order to develop a more comprehensive regulatory mechanism. While the Montreux Document was primarily aimed at states, the ICoC takes on a multi-stakeholder approach that includes governments, PMSC, industry associations, experts and academics and civil society. The ICoC outlines principles for the conduct of PMSC personnel, including rules on the use of force, detainee treatment, prohibition of sexual misconduct, etcetera.

“The reason the ICoC is different from any other regulatory mechanisms is that it appeals to governments and non-state clients to adhere to the Code whilst drawing up contracts with PMSCs. If a PMSC is a signatory of the Code, and the government or non-state actor whom they are contracting to has also committed to implementing the Code, then it moves from a voluntary regulatory standard, to one that can be upheld in a court of law. The British Government has already expressed its commitment to making adherence to the ICoC a requirement for any of its contracted PMSCs, and the US Government is contemplating a move in the same direction,” Motzouris added.


International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers

There was consensus that if a complaint is made it should be dealt with by the company first. In some circumstance that won’t be appropriate (internal grievance mechanism exhaustion requirement, with well defined exceptions). There was consensus that the grievance mechanism should include something like a referral function.
A summary of the grievance mechanism functions would be:
A  complaint triggers two avenues:
1. Compliance review,
2. Notice advisory/referral with options for the claimants. Afterwards facilitation of the IGOM for remedy.

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Publications: 2010 International Code Of Conduct For Private Security Service Providers

2010 International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers

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