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Frontier Services Group (FSG)
Security Belt Forces
Hadhrami Elite Forces

The UAE army has been working for years to strengthen its military capability, yet only a small percentage of its operational staff actually hold UAE passports. The top officer in the Presidential Guard is an Australian citizen called Mike Hindmarsh, while responsibility for recruitment was delegated to the UAE firm Reflex Responses Company, also known as R2.

The UAE participated in the Saudi-led war in Yemen through a disparate collection of private military contractors (PMC). In 2011, the UAE hired Erik Prince with $529 million from the oil-soaked sheikdom to set up an operation to train foreign personnel, mainly from Latin America, ostensibly for internal defense purposes. Prince, who resettled to the UAE in 2010 after his Blackwater security business (which renamed itself Xe Services) faced legal problems in the US, was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the UAE.

The training camp, located on a sprawling Emirati base called Zayed Military City. The UAE paid Colombian and Sudanese nationals to serve as part of their ground forces in Prince’s new company, Reflex Responses (also called R2). The Arab Organisation for Human Rights, an NGO in Britain, accused the UAE of engaging mercenaries to fight in Yemen, including nationals from Australia, South Africa, Colombia, El Salvador, Chile, and Panama. Reflex Responses Management Consultancy LLC offers security consulting and training services. The company is based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

In Libya, foreign mercenaries, employed by Prince, were being used to fly UAE ally, General Khalifa Haftar’s war-planes. In Somalia, the same firm is responsible for ‘security services’ for western development services near Mogadishu. And in South Sudan, FSG is hired to fly warplanes over the world’s newest country’s oil fields to provide protection. Wherever the UAE seeks to push its foreign policy abroad, FSG can be found, time and again, to provide ‘security’ in those countries.

The UAE forces in Yemen include the Emirati Presidential Guard, an elite force that played a key role in retaking Aden from the Houthis. The Hadrami Elite Force and Security Belt Force were formed in 2015. The Security Belt Forces include “some 15,000 southern fighters deployed across four provinces and mainly commanded by hard-line Muslims known as Salafis,” according to an in-depth report by the Associated Press. The UAE-backed Hadrami Elite Forces have carried out raids and detention operations in Hadramout province. The Hadrami Forces militia group have been recruited from the local population in Hadramout province.

During the year 2017 there were reports of politically motivated disappearances and kidnappings of individuals associated with political parties, NGOs, and media outlets critical of government security forces and the Houthi movement. In June 2017 Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Associated Press both reported claims of torture by Hadrami Elite Force and Security Belt Force, tribal fighters aligned with the Hadi-led government and supervised by United Arab Emirates (UAE) security personnel in Mukalla and Aden. These forces reportedly abducted dozens of Yemenis to secret detention centers run by the UAE, where they were tortured. Accounts of torture included tying detainees to a pole and rotating them in a circle of fire, electric shocks, and beatings. The UAE government denied the existence of secret detention centers and the use of torture on prisoners during interrogation. The Hadi-led government ordered a six-member committee to investigate the reports of torture and abuses.

On the side-lines of the 37th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, held from 26 February 2018 to 23 March 2018, the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR UK) held a seminar entitled "The recruitment by the UAE of officers, soldiers and individuals to work as mercenaries" on Tuesday, 13 March 2018. One of the most prominent participants was the French law firm ANCILE Avocate. AOHR UK, on 27 November 2017, commissioned the French law firm ANCILE Avocate, and other lawyers, to file a formal complaint to the ICC, demanding an urgent investigation into the UAE recruiting armies of foreign mercenaries to carry out criminal tasks in Yemen.

AOHR UK and lawyer Joseph Barham of the ANCILE Avocate office accused the UAE government that during its war with Saudi Arabia's help against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, it was launching "indiscriminate attacks against civilians." It was also noted that investigations have opened to hold the UAE accountable for its operation of secret prisons in Yemen, where human rights investigations have revealed that hundreds of prisoners are being subjected to ill-treatment and brutal torture.

Lawyer Laurence Greig from ANCILE Avocate office spoke at the seminar. "the participation of mercenaries who belong to member states of the ICC finally opens a breach in the wall of impunity, imposing an obligation upon the ICC to open a special and independent investigation .... We know that our investigations into the use of foreign mercenaries by the UAE will take a long time and that they will be far-reaching, but they will provide unsatisfactory results for many countries that have been a silent spectator in this crisis.... “These countries include Australia, South Africa, Colombia, El Salvador, Chile and Panama, where the vast majority of mercenary soldiers are citizens of those countries. The UAE started since May 2018 by sending them to participate in the war in Yemen.”

AOHR UK said in its letters, according to evidence it gathered, that it was at the beginning of 2010 when the process of forming an army of mercenaries began with the assistance of a former Australian officer and the American founder of Blackwater. The recruited army of foreigners began work outside the borders of the UAE with the launch of the military operations against Yemen in March 2015.

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Page last modified: 16-07-2018 23:28:05 ZULU