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Former child soldiers threaten legal action against British-based security company

Two former child soldiers from Sierra Leone have threatened legal action against Aegis Defence Services, a British-based security company

African soldier

18 November 2016

Two former child soldiers from Sierra Leone have threatened legal action against Aegis Defence Services, a British-based security company, after they were recruited to provide security services in Iraq and allegedly suffered psychological trauma.

The men were child soldiers, both under the age of 13, during the brutal Sierra Leonean civil war which ended in 2002. They were recruited to work in Iraq as security guards in 2010 and worked for Aegis from 2011.

The men claim that they have suffered psychiatric symptoms triggered and exacerbated by their training for, and work in, Iraq and that the security firm should have taken steps to mitigate this.

The men have instructed lawyers from Leigh Day who have now written to Aegis Defence Services setting out the claims of the men in a letter before action to the company which has its headquarters at 1 London Bridge.

Earlier this year James Ellery a former brigadier in the British army and the former director of Aegis Defence Services told the Guardian newspaper that contractors are recruited from countries such as Sierra Leone due to “high unemployment and a decent workforce”.

He said: “You probably would have a better force if you recruited entirely from the Midlands of England, 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.”

Mr Ellery, who was director of operations at Aegis between 2005 and 2015, had served as chief of staff to the UN’s mission in Sierra Leone, at the time when the organisation was responsible for demobilising thousands of former child soldiers.

Aegis, which has been awarded contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars to protect US military bases in Iraq, paid its Sierra Leonean recruits around $500 per month.

Rebekah Read from the International & Group Claims department at Leigh Day said:

“Our clients claim that they have been traumatised by their work in Iraq due to the horrific experiences they suffered as child soldiers. 

“Aegis has serious questions to answer about why they employed former child soldiers for this kind of work, and what training, monitoring and support they provided whilst they were in Iraq.

“Aegis is British-based and has responsibilities in this country and abroad to its workforce, wherever they are recruited from.  The company has additional responsibilities when recruiting individuals who have had experience of fighting a brutal civil war when they were children.”

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