Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

July 29, 2022

United Nations Report -- TigerSwan Targeted Women at Standing Rock, by Water Protector Legal Collective

photo by Oceti Sakowin Camp/flickr

WPLC submits Shadow Report to UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Alleged Human Rights Abuses by Private Security Actors at Standing Rock and the United States

By Water Protector Legal Collective
July 22, 2022
Contact: Nizhoni Begay, Communications Coordinator

On July 22, 2022, the Water Protector Legal Collective, in collaboration with the International Organization for Self-Determination and Equality (IOSDE), submitted a Shadow Report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UN CERD) on the Use of Private Security Forces—namely, TigerSwan—by the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, at Standing Rock as a weapon against the #NoDAPL movement and Water Protectors. The 107th session of the Examination of the United States will be held on August 11-12, 2022.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination listed themes to be discussed during the Examination of the United States. WPLC’s report answered the “Situation of [I]ndigenous peoples” specifically the “reports of excessive use of force by law enforcement officials and private security companies against [I]ndigenous individuals, including [I]ndigenous women, peacefully protesting for the protection of their rights.”

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is a $3.8 billion pipeline that carries “approximately 5% of the oil produced in the United States for 1,712 miles through unceded Lakota Sioux territory reserved for the Tribe in the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty.” Its construction lacked free, prior, and informed consent from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. When it was clear DAPL would put their clean water at risk, the Standing Rock Sioux objected to DAPL’s construction. Even so, construction started on July 25, 2016, and the pipeline was fully operational by June 1, 2017.

TigerSwan is a private military and security company (PMSC) that was hired by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company behind DAPL. TigerSwan was sent to Oceti Sakowin (Standing Rock) to police the construction of DAPL. TigerSwan used counterterrorism tactics to silence and suppress Indigenous-led protests during the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Leaked documents revealed that TigerSwan regularly used language such as “terrorists” when referring to protestors, “attacks” when referring to protests, and “battlefields” when referring to resistance camps. It is alleged that TigerSwan infiltrated the #NoDAPL Movement in order to gain information.

TigerSwan allegedly targeted Indigenous women and used internal communications to discuss infiltration strategies.” The leaked communications detail “sexual manipulation” and “coercion” used as counterintelligence tactics against Indigenous women and, as stated in our joint report to UN CERD, such sexual tactics constitute a “violation of international laws against sexual violence by coercion, including by deception or misrepresentation.”

“While companies like Blackwater were private military companies operating abroad, TigerSwan brought the tactics that contractors and soldiers use in Baghdad to American soil for the first time.”—Jack Murphy, TigerSwan: Former Delta Operator sought to incite violence at Dakota Access Pipeline (Feb. 26, 2018)

The United States must take accountability for the human rights abuses caused by PMSCs like TigerSwan. Without regulation, the “United States’ complacency towards the dependence on PMSCs, on behalf of government contractors and private companies” will make it impossible to understand the distinction between private and State actors. This report to UN CERD calls for the abolishment of PMSCs entirely to ensure there is no more harm caused. The report also asks the U.S. to “ensure that all PMSCs and personnel who have committed human rights abuses…are brought to justice, and that all victims are dually afforded access to justice and effective remedies.” Read other suggestions of the report, concerning the United States, extractive industries, and PMSCs, here.

WPLC International Director Michelle Cook states, “Indigenous peoples all over the world are in danger when private armies enforce the will of extractive industries through violence and coercion at the expense of their dignity, human rights, and cultural survival. There is an urgent need for the international community to examine the historic and contemporary role that non-State actors like private security actors play in perpetuating ongoing violence against Indigenous Peoples for the colonization of their lands and territories. The use of private armies, mercenaries, and militaries by corporate actors to harm Indigenous Peoples must come to an end.”

In April of this year, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that 60,000 TigerSwan documents from Standing Rock will be made public. Years after the #NoDAPL Movement, WPLC, Water Protectors, IOSDE, and the public continue to wait in anticipation for these files to be made available to have access to justice and fully document this historic movement, in the interest of truth, justice, and accountability.

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