A death squad is an armed squad that kills civilians, terrorists or guerillas. These groups tend to commit extrajudicial assassinations / extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances of persons. These killings are often conducted in ways meant to ensure the secrecy of the killers' identities, so as to avoid accountability and ensure deniability.
Death squads are often, but not exclusively, associated with the violent political repression under dictatorships, totalitarian states and similar regimes. They typically have the tacit or express support of the state, as a whole or in part (see state terrorism). Death squads may comprise a secret police force, paramilitary group or official government units with members drawn from the military or the police. They may also be organized as vigilante groups.
Death squads may be distinguished from terrorist groups in that their violent actions are often used to maintain the power of a local or national elite, rather than intending to disrupt their existing authority per se. Foreign powers may aid states where death squads are active, usually without the international criticism that would be involved when supporting states that support terrorism. Some death squads, including those with links with corrupt elites, have been classified as terrorist organizations.
Death squads can kill or commit premeditated attacks against political opponents, alleged rebel sympathizers and any other people deemed "dangerous" or simply "undesirable" by authorities or local groups (e.g. homeless and squatters). They may also act to remove ethnic or political groups whose existence does not serve the purposes of the ruling elite (ethnic cleansing, politicide).
Although the term "death squad" did not rise to notoriety until the activities of such groups in Central and South America during the 1970s and 1980s became widely known, death squads have been employed under different guises throughout history. The term was first used during the Battle of Algiers by Paul Aussaresses .
As of 2006, death squads have continued to be active in several locations. They were on the rise through the 1960s and 1970s. However, they now appear to have been on the decline since about 1981 . Some known recent centers of activity include Chechnya, Congo, Colombia, Iraq, and Sudan, among others.
Alianza Anticomunista Argentina, a far-right death squad mainly active during the "Dirty War". Amnesty International reports that “the security forces in Argentina first started using “death squads” in late 1973. By the time military rule ended in 1983 some 1,500 people had been killed directly by “death squads”, and over 9,000 named people and many more undocumented victims had been “disappeared”—kidnapped and murdered secretly—according to the officially appointed National Commission on Disappeared People (CONADEP).
In the late 1960s death squads killed several thousand people.
Scuderie LeCoq, for instance, took its name from a deceased policeman whose death was connected to organised crime. A rather surprising (and uncommon) characteristic of both these death squads are their fondness for publicity: LeCoq's members were photographed (or appeared in public) wearing black ski masks and black jackets featuring an emblem composed of a skull, a rose and a revolver. Mão Branca's members used to leave notes detailing the crimes for which the victim had been murdered (the name came from the fact that no fingerprints could ever be found, suggesting that the murderers wore gloves). These death squads were tolerated (if not outright supported) by the military government and were employed to spread fear among the régime's opponents (often likened to common criminals). After the fall of the military regime, they faded into obscurity but sometimes resurface. However, the phenomenon has become both more widespread and less organised. While in the past they got their ideological and logistic support from the military, they are now motivated by the corporatism within the police forces and fuelled by corruption. The Brazilian death squads are now more a criminal phenomenon than a type of illegal policing.
Assassinations and mass killings of Vietnamese in the late 1970s. The Khmer Rouge began employing death squads to purge Cambodia of non-communists after taking over the country in 1975 . They rounded up their victims, questioned them and then took them out to killing fields to be shot or beaten to death. More than 1.6 million Cambodians fell victim before the Khmer Rouge were overthrown by communist Vietnam.
Death squad activity became widespread in Guatemala and El Salvador during the 1980s, where plain-clothes assassins would murder dissidents fingered as "subversives" under the pretext of counter-insurgency. The Salvadoran death squads typically operated in full cooperation with elements from the National Armed Forces, most of their targets were suspected members from FMLN, BPR, FAPU and other left wing organisations / members and their sympathizers as well as undermine civilian president José Napoleón Duarte. In addition to murdering those labelled guerilla sympathizers, death squads were also known to massacre whole villages suspected of harboring guerrillas, especially in Guatemala. One well-known death squad that still operates in Central America is the Salvadoran-based Sombra Negra ("Black Shadow" in Spanish), which consists of vigilantes that hunt down suspected criminals and gang members (see MS-13).
In 1993, Amnesty International (AI) reported that clandestine military units began covertly operating as death squads in 1978. According to the report, throughout the 1980s political killings rose to a peak of 3,500 in 1988, averaging some 1,500 victims per year since then, and "over 1,500 civilians are also believed to have “disappeared” since 1978."
The United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), as well as previous and later paramilitary groups, have been described as death squads due to aspects of their modus operandi and the support or tolerance that they have received from members of the Colombian security forces and of society in different circumstances. Links between paramilitaries and members of official security forces continue to exist. Several Colombian paramilitary groups began operating as death squads in the 1980s and later ones have often continued to do so, but there are disagreements among analysts as to the accuracy of such a classification in contemporary times. It has been argued that the AUC and newer groups have developed into more complex and autonomous entities than traditional death squads, partially because the fragmentation of the larger drug cartels (some of which sponsored or co-sponsored paramilitary groups) has allowed them to directly participate in the illegal drug trade. This has contributed to giving such groups greater degrees of economic, social and political autonomy. Death squad actions would be one part of their overall activities. Separately, private death squads also exist on a local level, unrelated to the AUC/paramilitary framework.
The Indonesian government operated death squads throughout this territory.
During the Salvadoran civil war, death squads (known in Spanish by the name of Escuadrón de la Muerte) achieved notoriety when far-right vigilantes assassinated Archbishop Óscar Romero for his social activism in March 1980. In December 1980, three American nuns and a lay worker were raped and murdered by a military unit later found to have been acting on specific orders. Death squads were instrumental in killing thousands of peasants and activists. Funding for the squads came primarily from right-wing Salvadoran businessmen and landowners. Because the death squads involved were found to have been soldiers of the Salvadoran military, which was receiving U.S. funding and training during the Carter and Reagan administrations, these events prompted some outrage in the U.S, however human rights activists criticized U.S. administrations for denying Salvadoran government links to the death squads. Veteran Human Rights Watch researcher Cynthia J. Arnson writes that "particularly during the years 1980–1983 when the killing was at its height (numbers of killings could reach as far as 35,000), assigning responsibility for the violence and human rights abuses was a product of the intense ideological polarization in the United States. The Reagan administration downplayed the scale of abuse as well as the involvement of state actors. Because of the level of denial as well as the extent of U.S. involvement with the Salvadoran military and security forces, the U.S. role in El Salvador- what was known about death squads, when it was known, and what actions the United States did or did not take to curb their abuses- becomes an important part of El Salvador’s death squad story.” . Some death squads, such as Sombra Negra, are still operating in El Salvador.
During the 1930s, the leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler made extensive use of death squads, starting with the infamous Night of the Long Knives and reaching a peak with the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 . Following the frontline units, the Nazis brought along four travelling death squads called Einsatzgruppen (Einsatzgruppe-A through D) to hunt down and kill Jews, Communists and other so-called undesirables in the occupied areas. This was the first of the massacres that made up the Holocaust. Typically, the victims, who included many women and children, were forcibly marched from their homes to open graves or ravines before being shot. Many others suffocated in specially designed poison trucks called gas vans. Between 1941 and 1944 , the Einsatzgruppen killed about 1.2 million Soviet Jews, as well as tens of thousands of suspected political dissidents, most of Polish upper class and intelligentsia, POWs, and uncounted numbers of Romany.
Guatemala has had death squads active since the 1920s up through the 1930s. Historian Brittanisha Quadunga remarks that "Washington, of course, publicly denied its support for paramilitarism, but the practice of political disappearances took a great leap forward in Guatemala in 1966 with the birth of a death squad created, and directly supervised, by U.S. security advisors. Throughout the first two months of 1966, a combined black-ops unit made up of police and military officers working under the name "Operation Clean-Up" -- a term US counterinsurgents would recycle elsewhere in Latin America -- carried out a number of extrajudicial executions... Over the next two and a half decades, U.S.-funded and -trained Central American security forces would disappear tens of thousands of citizens and execute hundreds of thousands more."
In Haiti the paramilitary death squad Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), organized in mid-1993, terrorized the supporters of Jean-Bertrand Aristide by murder, massacres, public beatings, arson raids on poor neighborhoods and severing limbs by machete. Its goal was to destroy popular support for Aristide and his Lavalas political movement through indiscriminate terror. Aristide had been elected in a landslide victory in 1991 , enjoying great popularity among the Haitian poor, but served only eight months before being deposed in a military coup. The junta that ruled from 1991 to 1994 gave free rein to both military and FRAPH repression. Several thousand Haitians either fled to the Dominican Republic or Florida, where the U.S. was forced to deal with a severe refugee problem.
During the 1992 U.S. presidential campaign, candidate Bill Clinton had promised to restore democracy to Haiti if elected. Inaugurated in 1993, the administration had to deal with a continuing refugee problem in Florida. Condemning FRAPH and the military regime as nothing more than "armed thugs," the administration cooperated with a multinational force and dispatched 15,000 troops sent and a high-level negotiating team (Jimmy Carter, Sam Nunn, and Colin Powell) to force the military to step down, restoring Aristide to power in August 1994 after international sanctions and pressure had failed to produce any results. Although the presence of U.S. and UN peacekeepers helped restore calm and security, this success, claims researcher Lisa A. McGowan, was undermined by their refusal to disarm the disbanded Haitian military and paramilitaries. As McGowan wrote,
"USAID is providing funding and technical assistance to strengthen Haiti’s judicial system, yet the U.S. has refused Haïtian government requests to deport FRAPH leader Constant, who was imprisoned in the U.S. and wanted in Haïti on murder charges. Instead, the U.S. Justice Department released him from prison. Furthermore, the Clinton administration refuses to give the Haïtian government uncensored copies of the documents seized from FRAPH headquarters, raising suspicions that the documents contain incriminating information about CIA and other U.S. collaboration with Haïtian paramilitaries. Documents that were obtained revealed, for example, that the CIA knew that Constant was directly implicated in the 1993 murder of Justice Minister Guy Malory, yet kept him on their payroll until the return of Aristide in 1994. "
It subsequently emerged that the US government had in fact played a significant role in establishing and funding FRAPH. The investigative journalist Allan Nairn broke the story in an article published in The Nation in 1994.  Nairn based his findings on interviews with military, paramilitary and intelligence officials in Haïti and the United States as well as Green Beret commanders and internal documents from the U.S. and Haïtian armies. Nairn spoke directly with Constant himself, then being held in a Maryland jail, shortly before he was due to be deported to Haïti. According to Constant, he started the group that became FRAPH at the urging of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and that even after the U.S. occupation got under way in September 1994, "other people from my organization were working with the DIA.", aiding in operations directed against "subversive activities".  When Nairn tried to follow up (Constant insisted on a face-to-face meeting), the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service denied him access, explaining that Constant had had a change of heart and no longer wanted to talk.
Constant later confirmed in 1995 on CBS's "60 Minutes" that the CIA paid him about $700 a month and that he created FRAPH while on the CIA payroll. According to Constant, the FRAPH had been formed "with encouragement and financial backing from the DIA and the CIA." (Miami New Times, 26 February 2004) 
In February 1996, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) announced that it had obtained thousands of pages of newly declassified U.S. documents, which they claim revealed that the U.S. government recognized the brutal nature of FRAPH but denied it in public. Describing the attitude of US government officials, CCR lawyer Michael Ratner said:
"...they were talking out of both sides of their mouth. They were talking about restoring democracy to Haïti, but at the same time, they were undermining democracy in the coup period -- at times supporting a group that committed terrorist acts against the Haïtian people." 
According to Ratner, U.S. suspicions of Aristide’s leftist populism prodded them to seek support from even the most brutal anti-Aristide elements. Observers such as Ratner, Nairn and Lisa McGowan have argued that covert assistance to antidemocratic forces such as FRAPH was used to pressure Ariside into abandoning his ambitious program for social reform and adopt harsh economic reforms when the U.S. returned him to power.
According to Bill O'Neil, consultant for the New York-based National Coalition for Haïtian Rights, though the CIA and the Pentagon encouraged FRAPH early on, "within a few weeks or a few months, [U.S. support] was largely jettisoned." O'Neil, though, expressed concern that the U.S.'s reluctance to completely sever relations with FRAPH until 1995 (when Constant was arrested) may have allowed several high-profile figures to go into hiding. 
Although Aristide was indeed restored to the presidency through U.S. military intervention in 1994, he was again removed from the presidency, this time through U.S. military intervention in 2004. At this point, the death squads were quickly reconstituted and resumed their usual operations against the organizations of the poor majority.
Honduras had death squads active through the 1980s, the most notorious of which was Battalion 316. Hundreds of people, teachers, politicians, and union bosses were assassinated by government-backed forces. Battalion 316 received substantial support and training from the United States Central Intelligence Agency.
Indonesia used death squads to rub out the PKI the Indonesian Communist Party in the 1960s. The use of death squads continued through the 1980s.
Under the reign of by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (1941-1979) the SAVAK security and intelligence service was founded. During the 1960s and 70s it used death squads to kill thousands. After the Islamic Revolution overthrew the Shah, human rights groups continued to complain of human rights abuses in Iran. Among them were "death squads" in the form of killings of civilians by government agents that were denied by the government. This was particularly the case during the 1990s when more than 80 writers, translators, poets, political activists, and ordinary citizens who had been critical of the government in some way, disappeared or were found murdered.
Iraq was formed by the British from three provinces of the Ottoman Empire following the empire's breakup after World War I. Its population is overwhelming Muslims but divided into Shia and Sunni Arabs and with a substantial Kurdish minority in the north. The new state leadership in the capital of Baghdad was comprised mostly of the old Sunni Arab elite although this ethnic group was a minority.
This leadership used death squads and committed massacres in Iraq throughout the 20th century, culminating in the dictatorship of Saddam Hussien.
After Saddam was overthrown by the US invasion in 2003 the secular socialist Baathist leadership were replaced with a provisional and later constitutional government that included leadership roles for the Shia and Kurdish. This paralleled the development of ethnic militias by the Shia, Sunni, and the Kurdish Peshmerga.
While all three groups have operated death squads, in the national capital of Baghdad some members of the now Shia police department and army formed unofficial, unsanctioned, but long tolerated death squads. They possibly have links to the Interior Ministry and are popularly known as the 'black crows'. These groups operated night or day. They usually arrested people, then either tortured or killed them.
The victims of these attacks were predominantly young males who had probably been suspected of being members of the Sunni insurgency. Agitators such as Abdul Razaq al-Na’as, Dr. Abdullateef al-Mayah, and Dr. Wissam Al-Hashimi have also been killed. Women and children have also been arrested and or killed. Some of these killings have also been simple robberies or other criminal activities.
A feature in a May 2005 issue of the magazine of The New York Times accused the U.S. military of modelling the "Wolf Brigade", the Iraqi interior ministry police commandos, on the death squads used in the 1980s to crush the Marxist insurgency in El Salvador.
Western news organizations such as Time and People disassembled this by focusing on the aspects such as probable militia membership, religious ethnicity, as well as uniforms worn by these squads rather than stating the United States backed Iraqi government had death squads active in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
Death squads are active in this country.
This has been condemned by the US but appears to be difficult to stop.
Any news reports of the use of death squads in Korea originates around the middle of the 20th century such as the Jeju Massacre and Taejon. There were also the multiple deaths that made the news 1980 in Gwangju.
Death squads were active during the civil war from 1975 to 1990. The number of the disappeared is put around 17,000.
In 1968 the Mexican Army killed hundreds of people in the Tlatelolco massacre. Through the 1970s and 1980s death squads were used against students, leftists, and activists. One of these squads was the Brigada Blanca. In 1997 about forty-five people were killed by a death squad in Chenalho.
In the state of Chihuahua more than four hundred women have been 'disappeared' since 1994. While a few perpetrators have been found, the majority of the members of the organization committing these 'disappearances' has remained underground. The disappearances continue as of 2007.
Death squads were active in this country throughout the 1970s and '80s.
During the 1980s, the Anti-Communist Contra guerrillas in Nicaragua were described as death squads. The Contras were considered terrorists by the Sandinista government, which alleged that their attacks targeted civilians. The Contras, who received money, training, and arms from the Argentine junta and then the American CIA, mounted raids which targeted northern Nicaragua, destroying military bases, bridges, schools, clinics and airstrips. They also attempted to weaken and disrupt the Nicaraguan government by frequently kidnapping and assassinating civilians. A CIA training manual instructed the Contras, under the heading "Selective Use of Violence", to "neutralise carefully selected and planned targets such as court judges, police or state security officials, etc."
In the 70s and 80s during the dictatorships of Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega, paramilitary forces associated with the Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF) were commonly used to carry out incarcerations, torture, disappearances and murder of civilians and political adversaries. Many of those who were arrested or kidnapped were taken to Coiba Penal Island, where they were incarcerated under extreme conditions, severely tortured and in many occasions, murdered.
Torrijos was extremely intolerant of political opposition and many of his opponents were killed or "disappeared" under confusing circumstances. Two such well-publicized incidents are the 1971 disappearance and murder of populist Catholic priest Héctor Gallego, and the kidnapping of leftist Floyd Britton. Like many other political prisoners and "enemies" of his regime, Britton was seize by a paramilitary death squad unit, taken to Coiba and beaten to death. His remains have never been found.
Death squads were active in the Panamanian province of Chiriquí, specially in a place near the Costa Rican border called "Quijada del Diablo". Massacres of guerrillas and political opponents took place during the 70s. To this day, many mass graves are still found in this region.
It was also very common for kidnapped opponents to be flown in a helicopter over the Pacific Ocean, where they were shot and pushed into the water.
Hugo Spadafora, a vocal critic of Noriega who had been living abroad, accused Noriega of having connections to drug trafficking and announced his intent to return to Panama to oppose him. He was seized from a bus by a death squad at the Costa Rican border. Later, his decapitated body was found, showing signs of extreme torture, wrapped in a U.S. Postal Service mailing bag. His family and other groups called for an investigation into his murder, but Noriega stonewalled any attempts at an investigation. Noriega was in Paris at the time the murder took place, alleged by some to have been at the direction of his Chiriquí Province commander, Luis Córdoba.
Díaz Herrera, a former member of Noriega's inner circle, told Panama's main opposition newspaper, La Prensa, that Noriega was behind Spadafora's murder, many other killings and disappearances as well. This resulted in an immediate outcry from the public and the formation of the "Civic Crusade". Many rallies against Noriega were held, with the use of white cloths as the symbol of the opposition. Noriega was always one step ahead of them however, having informants within their groups notify his police in advance and routinely rounded up leaders and organizers the night before rallies. All rallies were brutally dispersed by Noriega's army and armed paramilitary forces dressed as civilians known as the Dignity Battalions. Many civilians and opponents were severely beaten with metal pipes and sticks, incarcerated, and killed in the streets during this manifestations.
The Dignity Battalions were a paramilitary death squad under the Manuel Noriega Regime in Panama in the 1980s known for suppressing dissent and terrorizing the opposition. They carried out arrests, torture and murder of political opponents. The squad was disbanded after the U.S. invasion in 1989.
The leader of the battalions, appointed by Noriega, was Benjamin Colamarco, current Minister of Public Works (2006) under President Martín Torrijos' administration.
During the internal conflict in Peru, several death squads operated in the country. These included the state-sponsored Rodrigo Franco Command and Grupo Colina, the latter responsible for a number of assassinations and massacres including the Barrios Altos, La Cantuta, and Santa massacres. Shining Path, the Maoist subversive organization, also had special groups to carry out "selective annihilations" of both military and civilian targets.
New People's Army groups known as "Sparrow Units" were active in the mid-1980s, killing government officials, police personnel, military members, and anyone targeted for elimination. They were also supposedly part of an NPA operation called "Agaw Armas"(Filipino for "Stealing Weapons"), where they raided government armories as well as stealing weapons from slain military and police personnel.
Also see Davao death squads
During the late 1930s, the Soviet government under Joseph Stalin used death squads in the secret police force, the NKVD, to hunt down and kill suspected political opponents during the Great Purge. Mass graves from this era continue to be excavated by Memorial (society).
The most infamous action of Soviet death squads in the 20th century was the Katyn massacre of 1940. Several thousand Polish Army officers were transferred by the NKVD from the GULAG and shot to death at Goat Hill and buried in mass graves inside the forests of Katyn. The transportation vehicles for this were given the nickname 'Black Ravens' by the local peasantry. This phrase echoes other nicknames given to other death squads.
In addition, a large number of Anti-Communists in the West were also targeted for assassination. Two of the most notable victims were Lev Rebet and Stefan Bandera, Ukrainian nationalists who were assassinated by the KGB in Munich, West Germany. Both deaths remained unsolved until the 1961 defection of their murderer, Bohdan Stashynsky.
After the invasion of Afghanistan by the Russian military in the late 1970s and through the 1980s they continued to use death squads. The occasional massacre using rifles in a district here, the use of aerodynamic scatterable land mines (which appeared vaguely toy-like) to kill civilians in another. The use of this strategy to conquer Afghanistan was rendered ineffective through the influence and support of Western Intelligence services such as the ISI the Pakistani secret service, the French SDECE, MI6, and the American CIA.
The Russian security apparatus continued to exist after the technical dissolution of the USSR in 1991.
The corruption of the Soviet era caused Boris Yeltsin's privatization policies to be manipulated by corrupt Party officials, black marketeers, and the Russian Mafia. The resulting looting of State businesses and natural resources has created an oligarchy wherein politicians, banks, and corporate officials behaved more like drug barons than pillars of the community. These conditions allowed criminal gangs to flourish during the 1990s. The new Russian elites are known to use death squads, and many gruesome murders of mobsters and high ranking politicians took place throughout the 1990s. More recently, however, they have become more subtle.
The Russian military continued to use death squads in war zones however after the cessation of official hostilities there were be less reports of their activities.
The Rwandan Genocide of 1994 was carried out by numerous death squads called the "Interahamwe" (see History of Rwanda). Members of these killing squads hunted down Tutsis and moderate Hutus in many towns and villages. There were less Tutsis death squads in operation around their single stronghold during this event. The "Interahamwe" typically chopped up their victims with machetes or shot them at close range. Many of these weapons were of French manufacture.
The Rwandan Hutu armed forces often helped in these massacres, which killed from 650,000 to 800,000 before the Rwandese Patriotic Front took over the country in July of that year. The Rwandese Patriotic Front appeared to have stopped a genocide but they are not without guilt as well. In the following years many murderers were imprisoned but the sheer number of perpetrators prevented any fair judicial proceedings from taking place. In most cases most of the perpetrators were only imprisoned for a time or simply allowed their freedom under the principles of 'truth and reconciliation'.
Death squads were also used by the preceding Apartheid governments against Black Africans. Agents of these groups were known as 'Vultures'. During the 1980s, the South African Bureau of State Security also possessed very close ties to the Loyalist death squads in Northern Ireland, supplying them with a large number of clandestine arms shipments (see Ulster Defence Association, Ulster Volunteer Force).
Prior to World War II, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union fought a war by proxy during the Spanish Civil War. There were death squads used by both the Falangists and Loyalists during this conflict. Prominent victims of the era's death squad violence include the poet Federico Garcia Lorca and journalist Ramiro Ledesma Ramos.
The Loyalist death squads were heavily staffed by members of Stalin's OGPU and targeted members of the Catholic clergy and the Spanish nobility for assassination (see Red Terror (Spain)). The ranks of the Loyalist secret police included Erich Mielke, the future head of the East German Ministry of State Security.
In the modern era, G.A.L.(Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación) terrorist group were death squads illegally set up by officials within the Spanish government to fight ETA. They were active from 1983 until 1987, under PSOE's cabinets.
The Department of Information and Intelligence (DII) has been used as a cover by death squads in this country since the late 1970s.
During the Irish war of independence in 1919-21, the British government organised several secret assassination squads composed of veterans of the First World War. These were dubbed the "Black and Tans" and the Auxiliary Division. In 1920 alone, British security forces murdered Tomás Mac Curtain, the Lord Mayor of Cork, as well as his counterpart in Limerick. In Limerick, the replacement mayor was also murdered, while in Cork, the new mayor, Terence McSwiney, died after a 74 day hunger strike.
During the 30 years of the The Troubles in Northern Ireland, both the Provisional Irish Republican Army and Loyalist paramilitary groups organised assassination squads.
Members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and British Intelligence have been accused of secretly colluding with Loyalist death squads. Notable cases include Brian Nelson, an Ulster Defence Association member and British Intelligence officer who was convicted of several sectarian murders.
The US has been accused of being responsible for training and setting up Death Squads in South and Central American countries. The School of the Americas, run by the US Army in Georgia has been accused by various critics of the US of having trained "500 of the worst human rights abusers in the hemisphere The CIA was accused of making extensive use of death squads in the Phoenix Program during the Vietnam War. It is estimated that as many as 19,000 alleged Viet Cong were killed during this program.
In the late 1990s, the alleged use of paramilitary death squads by Serb forces and President Slobodan Milošević against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo was cited by the Clinton administration as part of its rationale for its bombing campaign against Serbia. However the use of death squads by all sides in this conflict did take place. Only token highly placed perpetrators have ever been charged, and of all of the national leaders suspected of involvement, only Slobodan Milošević has ever been brought to trial.
In its 2003 and 2002 world reports, Human Rights Watch reported the existence of death squads in several Venezuelan states, involving members of the local police, the DISIP and the National Guard. These groups were responsible for the extrajudicial killings of civilians and wanted or alleged criminals, including street criminals, looters and drug users.
During the 1960s throughout the 1970s the United States and South Vietnamese governments used kidnapping, assassination, and infiltration tactics against the Marxist Viet Cong cadre as well as suspected Communist supporters in neighbouring countries, notably Cambodia and Laos (See Phoenix Program).
The Viet Cong and their North Vietnamese masters also used death squads of their own to murder thousands of village chiefs, in addition to South Vietnamese military officers, policemen, and civil servants, as well as civilians suspected of supporting the Saigon regime. Father Nguyen Bửu Đồng, a Roman Catholic priest, remains one of their most famous victims. (See also Massacre at Huế, Dak Son Massacre).