The Pat Finucane Centre is appealing for support as it seeks to block the award of contracts to Tim Spicer's mercenary outfit Aegis on both sides of the Atlantic.
The CEO of Aegis, Tim Spicer, was commanding officer of the Scots Guards in Belfast in 1992 when two of his soldiers murdered 19-year-old Peter Mc Bride. He has consistently portrayed a fictitious version of the circumstances surrounding the incident. Various mercenary companies run by Spicer have since been at the centre of scandals in Sierra Leone, Papua New Guinea and Iraq.
Washington contract decision imminent
The Pentagon will decide in the next few days whether to renew the massive Iraq security contract held by Aegis since 2004. According to Jane's Defence Weekly, a decision on the contract, worth a potential $475 million, is due by 10 April.
At the time of the original contract award, Peter Mc Bride's mother Jean said: "Given the involvement of private security firms in torture and murder in Iraq I shudder to think that Spicer has been awarded a contract to create the world's largest private army. As commanding officer of the Scots Guards he told a pack of lies about Peter's murder and dragged his name through the dirt. God knows what his own private army will do in Iraq."
We are are urgently appealing to US subscribers to contact your local senators and congress-people to lobby against the renewal of the Aegis contract. Details of the numerous concerns surrounding the company and it's CEO Tim Spicer are available below, as are links to contact details for your local representatives. We are also appealing to subscribers around the world to lobby local US embassies and consulates.
UK legal challenge to block Aegis contracts
Lawyers for Jean Mc Bride have confirmed they will shortly be lodging legal papers in a bid to block Aegis from British security contracts.
Following an unsuccessful bid by Aegis for a British contract in Aghanistan last year, the Pat Finucane Centre wrote to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office () (FCO) on Mrs McBride's behalf calling for Aegis to be excluded from future contracts.
In a response earlier this year, the FCO refused to give this undertaking. It stated:
Having given your correspondence very careful consideration, the FCO does not believe that the points that you have made on Mrs McBride?s behalf justify the FCO giving the assurances that she is seeking. Hence the FCO gives no guarantee that future expressions of interest in FCO contracts by Aegis will not result in their being invited to tender or indeed being awarded a contract.
The FCO reply dismissed serious concerns surrounding Aegis in several areas:
The Peter Mc Bride case:
As CEO of Aegis, Lt Col Spicer's conduct is relevant to our consideration of bids received from Aegis. We are aware of the comments that Lt Col Spicer made in his autobiography and elsewhere to the effect that he disagreed with the convictions of Guardsmen Wright and Fisher. However, we do not consider that these views constitute grounds for denying Aegis participation in FCO tender processes.
You refer to activities of Lt Col Spicer?s previous company, Sandline, in Papua New Guinea and Sierra Leone. The FCO does not consider that the information you refer to in relation to Sandline?s activities in either country, taken individually or together, justifies the giving of the assurances that Mrs McBride seeks.
The FCO accepts that Aegis?s conduct in Iraq, and the manner in which it has discharged its responsibilities to the DoD may be relevant to the FCO?s consideration of any tender submitted by Aegis for future contracts. However, the FCO does not consider that that conduct justifies Aegis?s being excluded from tendering, as Mrs McBride suggests.
A PFC spokesperson said,
We welcome the fact that the FCO has accepted that Tim Spicer's conduct and Aegis' record in Iraq are relevant matters for future contract bids. However, the FCO reply otherwise fails completely to address the issues of concern around Tim Spicer and Aegis. Spicer has consistently sought to portray an entirely fictitious and untruthful version of the events surrounding the murder of Peter Mc Bride. He has violated a UN arms embargo in Sierra Leone, and the activities of his company in Iraq have caused widespread international concern.
Tim Spicer has proved on numerous occasions that he is unfit to command troops empowered to use lethal force. The public should not be asked to fund fund this man's private army. That is why lawyers for Mrs Mc Bride will initiate legal action on behalf of Jean McBride in the UK, and why we are asking our supporters in the US and around the world to lobby against the renewal of the Pentagon's contract with Aegis.
Tim Spicer and Aegis - Issues of Concern
Belfast - The Peter Mc Bride Case
18-year-old Peter Mc Bride was murdered in Belfast on 4 September 1992 by Mark Wright and James Fisher, members of a Scots Guards battalion commanded by Tim Spicer. The unarmed father of two was shot dead minutes after being stopped and searched by a British Army patrol.
Local police were not able to speak to the two soldiers until some hours after the shooting. In the meantime, the men were interviewed by Spicer along with three other officers. Spicer later wrote "I thought between us we could reach a balanced judgement on what happened."
Lt Col Spicer has since maintained the same version of events as Wright and Fisher, that the two soldiers believed McBride was about to throw a coffee jar bomb contained in a plastic bag he was carrying. This in spite of the fact that McBride had been searched moments earlier by members of the same patrol. The bag was subsequently found to contain a t-shirt.
At the subsequent trial, the judge said: "I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that there was no reasonable possibility that Guardsman Fisher held or may have held an honest belief that the deceased carried or may have carried a coffee jar bomb".
Wright and Fisher were convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. An appeal was dismissed in 1995, and the pair were denied leave to appeal to the House of Lords a year later.
Spicer was heavily involved in a lobbying campaign which contributed to the British Government's decision to free Wright and Fisher in 1998. The pair were subsequently allowed to return to their unit, and fought in the Iraq War. Their murder conviction has never been overturned.
Papua New Guinea - The Sandline Affair
In January 1997, the Government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) hired Sandline International, a mercenary firm run by Tim Spicer, to put down a secessionist movement on the copper-rich island of Bougainville. The Sandline plan, Operation Contravene, envisaged the use of two Soviet-made Mi-24 attack helicopters and two Mi-17assault helicopters as part of a strike force to retake the island in a massive escalation of the conflict.
Many of the troops brought to PNG turned out to be employees of Executive Outcomes, a South African mercenary firm founded by veterans of the Apartheid-era army. A mining firm linked to Executive Outcomes was reportedly represented at the initial meeting between Sandline and the PNG Government.
The Sandline contract was never approved by the PNG Parliament, and military opposition to the deal provoked a political crisis. Following the resignation of the Prime Minister, Spicer was briefly detained for illiegal possession of a firearm and illegal importation of cash.
After the departure of Sandline, a peaceful political solution to the Bougainville situation was achieved. Although Sandline never carried out its mission, it nevertheless succeeded in suing the new PNG Government for full payment on its contract.
Sierra Leone - The Arms to Africa Affair
In 1998, Sandline imported 100 tons of weapons into Sierra Leone in violation of a UN arms embargo. Spicer's company had been hired by ousted President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah to return him to power. It later emerged that the deal was to be financed by Rakesh Saxena, a financier facing extradition from Canada to Thailand on fraud charges. In return, Saxena hoped to gain diamond concessions in Sierra Leone.
The episode provoked a major political scandal in Britain, where the Government was accused of conniving at the breach of the arms embargo. During hearings in the House of Commons, the Deputy Head of the FCO's Equatorial Africa Department, Craig Murray, said he found Spicer "extremely difficult to pin down and shifty," and had recommended his officials not keep contact with him.
Iraq - The Trophy Video Scandal
In 2004, Spicer's new mercenary firm Aegis won a major security in Iraq. It has been alleged that two former British officers working for the Coalition Provisonal Authority, Brigadier General Anthony Hunter-Choat and Brigadier General James Ellery, were instrumental in the award of the contract to Aegis.
Ellery went on to head the Baghdad office of Aegis, which was later heavily criticised by US Government auditors who found the company could not prove that its armed employees received proper weapons training or that it had vetted Iraqi employees.
The problems within the company were further highlighted in 2005 by the emergence of claims of poor weapons handling and widespread drink and drug abuse on a message board run by an Aegis employee.
Most significantly, this message board became the source for the so-called trophy videos, which appeared to show Aegis employees firing randomly at Iraqi civilians. A US Department of Defence investigation later concluded there was no evidence of activity outside the rules of engagement by Aegis employees. However, information available to the Pat Finucane Centre suggests that the individual who filmed the video, and who was present during the shootings, was never interviewed by the investigation.
Also in 2005, An Aegis employee was sacked after a British newspaper revealed he was a key individual in implicated in a bullying scandal at the British Army's Deepcut Barracks.
In February this year, US Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur heavily criticised the Aegis contract, at a House Committee hearing. She stated:
I will say this, both in closed door meetings and in public, I have yet to find a person other than the auditor, who is able to shed any light on how it was that Aegis, a foreign corporation, was given a contract where now we have the second-largest force in Iraq, larger than the Brits, headed by someone named Tim Spicer.
Who signed that contract, and what are those 20,000 people doing, many of whom are foreign mercenaries? What are they doing? Why can't I get any answers out of our Government? What is happening inside the Department of Defence? What are those people doing over there?
The last answer I got was, well Congresswoman, you''ll have to go over to Central Command over in Baghdad. OK, I'll go, but why can't I get answers on that as a member of this committee?
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