Death squads are a reality that currently exist currently in many parts of the world and several (if not all) of the squads are guilty of terrorizing and killing thousands of innocent civilians. The killings are often conducted in a way that is meant to ensure the secrecy of the killers’ identities, so as to avoid accountability. When death squads aren’t being controlled by the state, they may consist of insurgent forces or organized crime. Extrajudicial killings and death squads are historically prevalent in Iraq, El Salvador, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Jamaica, and several others. Some of the most well-documented and ongoing will be listed here, and links to other investigations are embedded in the country name at the end of the article.
For years, the U.S. has had controversial involvement in training and funding death squads throughout Afghanistan, in an effort to allegedly combat Al Qaeda. That is, when they aren’t busy themselves funding those associated with the terrorist organization. The CIA and other U.S. officials help to create militias within areas like Afghanistan and Syria. Some have accused the groups of theft, corruption, assassination, and murder, leading some to assert that they seem to be acting out of control.
United Nations investigator, Philip Alston, released a preliminary report in 2008 citing widespread civilian deaths in Afghanistan, often at the hands of unaccountable units which were being led by the CIA, or other foreign intelligence agencies. There were over 200 civilian deaths reported in the first four months of 2008 alone.
“It is absolutely unacceptable for heavily armed internationals accompanied by heavily armed Afghan forces to be wandering around conducting dangerous raids that too often result in killings without anyone taking responsibility for them,” the report stated.
Five American soldiers even took it upon themselves to form their own death squad in Afghanistan: they were found to have murdered and dismembered a number of Afghan villagers. A consequential US military investigation claims that the group randomly targeted civilians for sport. They were also said to have kept bones and skulls as trophies. Sgt Calvin Gibbs, Cpl Jeremy Morlock, Private first class Andrew Holmes, Specialist Michael Wagnon and Specialist Winfield are accused of the killings.
“[According to published classified documents by WikiLeaks, there are] thousands of cases of Iraqi forces severely beating, brutalizing and torturing Iraqi civilians while US forces, with rare exception, did nothing to stop it” states journalist Glenn Greenwald.
According to the Afghan President, the U.S. may not have only neglected to investigate any wrongdoing, but he has made the accusation that they are actively and systematically participating.
Venezuela is one of the most violent countries on Earth, it also has a habit of training officers to simply terminate the problem, under the guise of battling crime the squads have been established and operating in such a way that blends the distinction between law and murder.
In 2013, President Nicolas Maduro initiated the Plan Patria Segurainitiative. This brought with it increased surveillance, checking of documents, and the use of verification checkpoints. Although the initiative offers further control to the state over the citizens which it represents, the plan has failed to bring about any positive changes in regards to crime reduction since murder rates throughout the country have remained the same. Both the official national rate of 39 deaths per 100,000 people in 2013 and a tally of double that from monitoring group the Venezuelan Violence Observatory (OVA) make the country an international leader in homicides. Caracas had 3,800 killings just last year, and the city now ranks as the world’s third most violent. The only cities ahead of it are also located in Latin America — San Pedro Sula, Honduras; and Acapulco, Mexico.
Frequent “express kidnappings” where the victim is held for a few short hours, money is collected from friends and family members of the victims, before they are let go and the assailants disappear. Many of the criminals are so well-trained that the accusation has even been made that perhaps some of the kidnappers are ex-military or police.
One death squad in Tagum city, Mindanao recently murdered hundreds, including street children as young as nine years old. The killings were allegedly carried out by hit men who are believed to have acted on orders of the former mayor. Each person was killed for a payment of only five thousands pesos (£65). The former Mayor helped to organize and even finance a death squad that has been linked to the murder of hundreds, according to Phelim Kine, deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch.
“One Shot to the Head”: Death Squad Killings in Tagum City, Philippines” is a 71-page report released on 22 May, 2014, with damning evidence and interviews with former hit men who allegedly said they were paid by former Mayor Rey “Chiong” Uy to kill anyone they were told to. One text message allegedly set them in motion.
They were paid US$110 for every killing and they divided it among themselves, one former hit man said in a taped interview posted on Youtube. The former mayor has denied the allegations. Unfortunately, the former mayor isn’t alone either, other city officials throughout the Philippines have also been accused of using death squads to kill street children and other citizens who are deemed a threat or critic of local government.
Other areas with ongoing or previous death squad violence include Honduras, Chile, Syria, Brazil, Kenya, Ukraine, and many other nations. They may be composed of a secret police force, paramilitary groups, or government soldiers and policemen. They may also simply be organized as vigilantes. Unsurprising, many of the death squads are accused of cooperation with police and other government forces and personnel.