U.K. Firm 'Employed Ex-Child Soldiers as Mercenaries in Iraq'

Child Soldier
Henry, a teenaged Revolutionary United Force rebel solider, brandishes his weapon in Koindu, Sierra Leone, June 9, 2001. James Ellery, a former director of Aegis Defence Services between 2005 and 2015, said the company did not check if African mercenaries—mostly from Sierra Leone—had previously been child soldiers. Chris Hondros/Getty

A U.K. firm may have employed former child soldiers as mercenaries in Iraq, it has been alleged.

The claims against Aegis Defence Services are to be made in a Danish television documentary The Child Soldier's New Job, which is due to be broadcast on Monday.

The documentary claims that Aegis, which is chaired by Sir Nicholas Soames, the Tory MP and grandson of Winston Churchill, hired some 2,500 mercenaries for as little as £10 ($16) a day in order to fulfil contracts to guard U.S. military bases from 2004 onwards.

James Ellery, a former director of Aegis Defence Services between 2005 and 2015, told The Guardian that the company had not checked if the African mercenaries—mostly from Sierra Leone—had previously been child soldiers. He said they were cheaper than Europeans and claims the firm did not check if they were former child soldiers.

"You probably would have a better force if you recruited entirely from the Midlands of England," Ellery said. "But it can't be afforded. So you go from the Midlands of England to Nepalese etc etc, Asians, and then at some point you say, I'm afraid all we can afford now is Africans."

Sierra Leone remains one of the world's poorest countries, and the documentary charts how from 2009 onwards private military firms turned to it, along with Uganda and Kenya, for cheap labor to guard military installations in Iraq.

Interviewees in the documentary provided detailed testimony of serving as child soldiers, and documents showing their employment with Aegis.

"When war gets outsourced, then the companies try to find the cheapest soldiers globally. Turns out that that is former child soldiers from Sierra Leone. I think it is important that we in the west are aware of the consequences of the privatization of war," the film's maker, Mads Ellesøe, said.

Aegis was taken over in 2015 by GardaWorld, a Canadian security company.

Graham Binns, Aegis's former CEO and GardaWorld's senior managing director, told The Guardian: "We worked very closely with our audited, vetted and authorized agents to recruit, vet and screen our professionals. Our agents were authorized [as was the employment of individuals] by the relevant national government of the countries from which we recruited.

"Aegis takes issues pertinent to our industry, such as post-traumatic stress very seriously, and has worked closely with experts in the field to develop and implement procedures for the management of trauma risk."

U.K. Firm 'Employed Ex-Child Soldiers as Mercenaries in Iraq' | World