Did Erik Prince Cross the Line in Libya?

Did Erik Prince Cross the Line in Libya?

In 2019, the former Blackwater CEO illegally supported rebel leader Khalifa Haftar with weapons and contractors, according to a UN report.

Allegedly, the $80 million agreement also called for the creation of a hit squad that would track down and kill Libyan leaders opposed to Haftar. Prince’s lawyer, Matthew Shwartz, denied all allegations. “Mr. Prince had no involvement in any alleged military operation in Libya in 2019, or at any other time,” he said in a statement. “He did not provide weapons, personnel, or military equipment to anyone in Libya.” The UN report also suggested that former President Donald Trump might have at least known about Prince’s alleged misdeeds.

A new interim government which represents the two major warring factions is scheduled to take office by mid-2021.

Conflict in Libya

Throughout much of the 20th century, Libya was an international pariah known for harboring international terrorists. Throughout much of the 20th century, it has epitomized that old saying “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.”

In 2011, Arab Spring protests drove longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi out of power. They probably thought that once he was gone, a stable democracy would take root. For at least a hundred years, people have thought this same thing. After World War I, Woodrow Wilson believed that, with the Kaiser gone, a German democracy would take power. Unfortunately, this democracy unwittingly sowed the seeds of its own destruction. It hired an unemployed soldier named Adolf Hitler to infiltrate a little-known fringe group called the Nazi Party. Instead of taking down the Nazis, Hitler joined them, and well, you know the rest.

Back to Libya. After a brief cessation of hostilities, the civil war resumed in 2014. Today, the situation is confusing, to say the least.

The Government of National Accord controls most of eastern Libya. According to the UN, the GNA is the legitimate Libyan government. However, if it were not for foreign intervention from Turkey, Syria, and elsewhere, the GNA would have little real power. Furthermore, the UN mandate technically expired in 2017, well before Prince allegedly helped destabilize the GNA.

Various militias, including the House of Representatives and Khalifa Haftar, control most of the country. The GNA has not only had problems providing security. There are also major issues with the economy. All these factors led to the sudden resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Musa al-Koni in January 2017. “I announce my resignation due to the failure of the Presidential Council, because it holds responsibility for the killing, kidnapping, and rape that happened over the past year,” he said at the time.

The aforementioned House of Representatives is the breakaway Libyan parliament which claims complete sovereignty. However, in the election which formed it, less than one-fifth of voters cast a ballot. So, its claims are tenuous at best. Russia’s Wagner Group, as well as some other foreign entities, support the HoR.

In October 2020, following years of negotiations, a joint military commision declared a “permanent ceasefire agreement in all areas of Libya.” So far, both major parties have largely respected the agreement. However, the ceasefire offered no permanent political solutions.

Limits on Contractors

Hundreds of contractors, mostly State Department contractors, are already in Libya. These individuals only do things like guard diplomatic installations. In fact, American law sharply limits the role of private military contractors. That’ is the main reason the United States has not signed international agreements about mercenary use. There is no need to accept international oversight in this area. Technically, mercenaries are illegal in America.

The Hessians, Germans who fought for the British in the Revolutionary War, are the classic example of mercenaries. These men typically did not speak English. They cared nothing about British interests and probably could not find her American colonies on a map. The Hessians only cared about money.

Contractors are different. True, they serve mostly for the money. But they also serve to further American interests abroad. Contractors in Afghanistan would never switch sides and join the Taliban if they offered them signing bonuses.

Furthermore, contractors may only serve in support and combat support roles, as mentioned above. Support roles include jobs like mechanics, cooks, and morale officers. Combat support roles mostly include escort and guard duty. Regular servicemembers sometimes see these jobs as a punishment. But contractors embrace them.

Injury Compensation Available

Although they serve in a limited capacity, overseas contractors still risk serious injury from the moment they step off the plane. At a minimum, these injuries usually mean weeks or months without work. Some of these victims are not able to work again. So, the Defense Base Act offered several kinds of wage replacement benefits, as follows:

  • Permanent Total Disability: This category usually includes fatal and nearly-fatal injuries. If the victim does not survive or is too hurt to work again, the DBA usually compensates these survivors or individuals based on their lost future income.
  • Permanent Partial Disability: Some injuries, like the loss of a leg or an eye, are instant PPD injuries. Others are lesser injuries which do not fully heal. For example, the bones and muscles in an injured shoulder might mend, but there might always be a permanent loss of motion in that joint. So, the DBA typically compensates these victims based on the loss of use.
  • Temporary Total Disability: Many victims must take time off from work to recover. Afterward, they are good to go. Unfortunately, as mentioned, this process could be lengthy. To prevent these families from sustaining a financial disaster, the DBA usually pays two-thirds of the victim’s average weekly wage for the duration of the temporary disability.
  • Temporary Partial Disability: After a few weeks or months, some victims “graduate” from TTD injuries to TPD injuries. They may work, but they must accept light duty or restrict their hours, because of their lingering injuries. The DBA usually pays two-thirds of the difference between the old and new AWW in these situations.

The Average Weekly Wage is not just a snapshot. It accounts for past and future wages. Many injured contractors just arrived in-country. There is a big difference in salary from a police officer in Tacoma and a police officer in Tobruk. Furthermore, most contractors earn performance bonuses based on the number of hours worked. An injury does not torpedo their qualifications for such bonuses.

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