In 2007, four American security contractors working for Blackwater Worldwide (now Xe) were part of a firefight in Baghdad that resulted in the death of at least 17 Iraqi civilians. The security personnel claimed it was self defense, but they were later criminally prosecuted for man-slaughter. While the case is on hold pending a lawsuit over tainted evidence, the incident drew international attention to the lack of oversight of contract security personnel working in danger zones.
To address these concerns, the United States government has contracted with ASIS International to develop “a standard to offer guidance to private security service providers so they can provide services in a sensible way and demonstrate that they have management processes in place, while simultaneously abiding by international codes and laws,” explains Marc Siegel, commissioner of the ASIS International Global Standards Initiative.
According to Siegel, the standards will follow a management system approach. The goal is to help companies put a strong management process in place to provide a high quality of service while also preventing undesirable events taking place in places with weakened government and rule of law. The standards will also deal with how the private sector can demonstrate accountability to human rights groups when they are working in locations with fragile human rights and civil rights laws.
The standards are to be used by contractors working in regions where there is weakened governance and rule of law; it is not targeted to private security in stable areas. The standards are worded this way, rather than being specially devised for combat zones, so that they can be used in locations hit by natural disasters.