AI: Contractors Committing War Crimes in Mozambique

AI: Contractors Committing War Crimes in Mozambique

A new report from Amnesty International accuses government security forces and its private contractor allies of committing atrocities in the fight against an intensifying Islamic insurgency.

In support of this conclusion, the watchdog group cited a number of examples. Following a successful attack on Quissanga, government forces rounded up suspected ISIS sympathizers and summarily executed them, according to witnesses. DAG (Dyck Advisory Group) South African contractors fired on villages from airborne helicopters, again according to witnesses. Mozambique’s government had no immediate comment, and DAG said it would hire outside lawyers to verify or deny these allegations.

The ongoing Cabo Delgado insurgency has displaced tens of thousands of people and killed or injured hundreds of others.

Why the U.S. Cares About Mozambique

These latest atrocities indicate that tensions are rising and the stakes are higher than ever. Very few people deliberately commit war crimes. Instead, the stress of war causes them to lose control, and the fog of war leads many people to believe they can get away with it.

Most Americans would be hard-pressed to find Mozambique on a globe. But this East African nation is important to the United States for several reasons, especially as the conflict intensifies.

Mozambique is on the Indian Ocean coast. Pretty much all the petroleum which drives the economies of Japan, South Korea, and other Asian allies comes through the Indian Ocean from the Persian Gulf. Instability in places like Mozambique encourages piracy and other rogue activities. Government forces are so busy dealing with insurgents that they have insufficient resources to combat other problems.

Furthermore, ISIS extremists are very bad news. These insurgents often see mass killings and other despicable acts as tools to cleanse “undesirable” aspects of civil and religious life in Mozambique, Somalia, Syria, Nigeria, and many other countries in the vital MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. So, if ISIS is active, stability is impossible.

Finally, if the United States does not help Mozambique subdue insurgents, someone else will. That “someone else” is often Russia. Kremlin officials do not want to help countries like Mozambique out of the goodness of their hearts. Generally, Russia is after the vast natural resources which many Central African countries possess.

Many of these nations are already among the richest and poorest nations in the world. The people live in poverty while corrupt bureaucrats or foreign powers live off the fat of the land. So, these countries cannot take much additional stress.

Breaking Down the Conflict

Mozambique is a former Portugese colony. Historically, the Portugese are excellent sailors who are very good at finding new places. But they are not very good at governing the places they find. Instead, like most other European colonial powers, they brutally suppressed local cultural, political, and other institutions. So, when the colonial power left, the countries they left behind were ill-equipped for self-government.

Instead, all those voices which the colonial masters suppressed were suddenly able to cry out. As a result, countries like Mozambique are mired in almost constant civil wars.

The latest conflict is centered in Cabo Delgado, a remote seaside province in the extreme north of Mozambique. In the before times, Cabo Delgado was a rather popular destination for stressed-out tourists who wanted to unplug from it all. The combination of coronavirus and a fundamentalist Islamic insurgency has ended those times for good.

ISIS is mostly a religious purification movement. Its members are much more violent than the Pilgrims and Puritans who settled in New England back in the day, but the underlying philosophy is largely the same. There are not a lot of Muslims in Mozambique, which is in the mostly Christian southern portion of Africa. But there are a lot of people who are fed up with the aforementioned wars and corruption. ISIS promises to end these things, but the specifics of their plans in this area are sketchy at best.

Contractors in Mozambique

The discipline and regimentation of regular servicemembers serves them well in most areas, but anti-insurgency is not one of them. So, contractors normally fill in the gaps.

Insurgencies are sporadic by nature. Militants ambush targets, mostly to recruit new members and destabilize the area. Then, the assault groups melt away into the countryside. Contractors are well-suited for such operations. Many private military contractors are former law enforcement officers. These individuals know how to deter activity through visibility and show of force alone.

Insurgents also rely on the local population for shelter, support, and other things. Contractors can tap into these support networks, trace ISIS activities, and so predict their next move. Regular servicemembers are trained to fight, not to gather intelligence.

Contractors also train government security forces. Since contractors know so much about anti-insurgency campaigns, they are in a unique position to empower these forces. Furthermore, American private military contractors often employ foreign nationals who can overcome the cultural barrier as well as the language barrier. These contractors are entitled to the same benefits as other contractors. More on that below.

Ani-insurgency campaigns rely on high-tech weapons, like drones. Contractors know how to operate and maintain these machines, mostly because they often worked at the companies which developed them.

Injury Compensation Available

When private military contractors are injured in an overseas war zone, Defense Base Act benefits compensate them for their lost wages and medical bills. Let’s look at the elements of a DBA claim more closely.

A “private military contractor” is pretty much anyone who works for an agency of the federal government, or certain sympathetic foreign governments. Individuals who carry books or hammers instead of machine guns and hand grenades are private military contractors for DBA purposes. So are Peace Corps volunteers.

The injury could be a sudden trauma injury, like a fall or gunshot wound, or an occupational disease which occurs over time, like breathing problems or hearing loss. The illness or injury must be at least indirectly related to the deployment. If the trauma injury occurs “off the clock” or a pre-existing condition contributed to the occupational disease, full compensation is usually available.

An “overseas war zone” is any country or region outside of the United States which has at least one American military installation. The place need not be an active war zone where shells are flying.

Victims have the burden of proof to establish their eligibility. But the standard of proof is very low, so these elements are not hard to prove.

For more information about DBA medical benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.