Saturday, March 7, 2015

Is Matt Bartlett’s Foreign Fighters Against ISIS Legal Under International Law?

Given the global threat posed by Islamic State / ISIS, is Matt Bartlett’s Foreign Fighters Against ISIS not violating existing international laws pertaining to mercenaries? 

By: Ringo Bones 

Given their brutality in full display on every major online social network, Islamic State or ISIS seems to be the very reason why civilized nations established the International Court of Justice, but should fighting them via means of still questionable legality be the best course of action. After all, there are still a lot of people who are calling for the prosecution of former US President George W. Bush and former US Vice President Dick Cheney for their use of “private contractors” during the wake of the March 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom which for all intents and purposes nothing more than glorified mercenaries and therefore in violation of the Neutrality Act? 

One redeeming feature of Matt Bartlett’s Foreign Fighters Against ISIS – which also has its own Facebook page – is that Bartlett had put in place a due diligent vetting process that screens out trigger happy yahoos or worse the “Christian counterparts” of Islamic State which most of them comes from the United States of America that form the Evangelical Christian core of the US Republican Party. According to a recent BBC Newsnight interview, Matt Bartlett personally vets potential volunteers wanting to join the Kurdish group Peshmerga via a Facebook group Foreign Fighters Against ISIS. 

As of the Thursday, March 5, 2015 interview, Bartlett has helped up to 20 volunteers head to the Iraqi region of Kurdistan to fight – as in engage in a shooting war - the Islamic State extremists. Bartlett said: “I see ISIS as a major threat which is on our doorstep.” Bartlett’s group has direct links with the official operation of the Kurdish Peshmerga’s Foreign Recruitment Assessment, Management & Extraction (FRAME) programme. 

Bartlet said “We have a very tight vetting framework in place to be considered to be passed on to the next level.” Given that prospective combatants must have prior military combat experience he says “We want to have your army discharge number, we want to be able to vet you to a high level before we pass you across to the Peshmerga.” The Kurdistan group showed their gratitude to Mr. Bartlett by posting a photo with a thank you message on the group’s Facebook page. Which is refreshing given that Islamic State has been recruiting conscripts the world over using major social media sites for a much longer time than Bartlett’s Foreign Fighters Against ISIS. 

Mr. Bartlett said he had spent a lot of time considering going out there himself as a civilian volunteer and was in discussion with a number of people about doing so. Bartlett works as a business development manager and has no military background but said he had joined in with the anti Islamic State fight because “It’s not a Middle Eastern threat it’s a global threat.” And other people with a beef against Islamic State / ISIS also want to pitch in their part in order to end the extremist group’s brutal onslaught across the region are now sympathetic with Bartlett’s scheme despite its questionable legality under international law because of NATO’s “Hamlet like psychosis” when it comes to prosecuting a military action against Islamic State / ISIS. 

With legal precedents on international law that now make privateering and nation-states issuing letters of marquee and reprisal and the hiring of mercenaries illegal, Bartlett’s Foreign Fighters Against ISIS seems has a shaky legality in the eyes of international law. Given that the last high-profile court case mercenaries happened back in June 1976 when a group of foreign mercenaries – mostly British and American - captured during the Angolan Civil War was brought in front of Chief Judge Ernesto Texeria da Silva. It seems like we are fighting the unmitigated evil of ISIS with legally questionable means.