“Every human being has a right to security and freedom from all forms of violence, whether by State officials or private actors”

GENEVA (13 September 2013) – The United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries warned that respect for international human rights and humanitarian laws may not be recognized in the private security and military company industry sector.

“Not all countries take into account any criminal or disciplinary records or reports of human rights violations committed by potential security personnel,” said Anton Katz, who currently heads the Group, during the presentation to the UN Human Rights Council of an ongoing regional survey* of national laws and regulations relating to PMSCs in Botswana, Ghana, the Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

“None of the countries has legislation specifically requiring security personnel to be adequately trained in international humanitarian law and human rights law,” the human rights expert noted.

The Anglophone African survey is the first phase of a global study of legislative approaches to the activities of security actors to assess the effectiveness of such legislation and identify required elements to protect human rights and promote accountability for violations, being conducted by the UN Working Group. The next phase of the study will focus on French-speaking African countries, followed by Asia and other regions of the world.

“Given the absence of a legally binding international instrument, there is little guidance on how to effectively address the phenomenon of the privatization of security,” Mr Katz said. “This has resulted in divergent regulatory approaches at the national level creating regulatory gaps, which by its very nature may be a potential source of human rights violations.”

The expert noted that, without effective oversight and control, the activities of PMSCs could, seriously undermine in some cases the rule of law and the effective functioning of a democratic State institution responsible for ensuring public safety in accordance with international human rights standards and national laws.

“There is a critical need to establish minimum international standards for States to regulate the activities of private security personnel, particularly those engaged in cross border activities in pursuing the realization of this fundamental human right,” Mr. Katz said.

“All, international organizations and States must make every effort to protect and ensure that every man, woman and child is free from violence and that the fundamental right to security is protected and respected,” Mr. Katz stressed. “States should ensure that private security actors also comply with these obligations”.

For the Working Group on the use of mercenaries “security underpins the enjoyment of all other human rights. Every human being has a right to security and freedom from all forms of violence, whether by State officials or private actors.”

The Working Group takes due note of the Syrian Arab Republic’s and Russian Federation’s interventions at the Human Rights Council indicating the presence of a large number of mercenaries in Syria, and urging the Working Group to carefully review the situation in the country.

The UN Human Rights Council has entrusted the Working Group with a twofold mandate. It monitors mercenaries and mercenary-related activities in different parts of the world, as well as the activities of private companies offering military assistance, consultancy and security services on the international market, and their effects on the enjoyment of human rights while acknowledging the legitimacy of such companies operating within a legal framework. The Working Group stresses the complementarity between international humanitarian law and international human rights law in discharging its mandate and the applicability of international humanitarian law by human rights mechanisms, and in particular the Human Rights Council.

(*) Check the Working Group’s report: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session24/Documents/A-HRC-24-45_en.pdf


The Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination was established in 2005 by the then Commission on Human Rights. It is composed of five independent experts serving in their personal capacities: Mr. Anton Katz (Chair-Rapporteur, South Africa), Ms. Faiza Patel (Pakistan), Ms. Patricia Arias (Chile), Ms. Elżbieta Karska (Poland) and Mr. Gabor Rona (United States/Hungary). Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Mercenaries/WGMercenaries/Pages/WGMercenariesIndex.aspx

Check the Working Group’s draft of a possible Convention on Private Military and Security Companies: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Mercenaries/WGMercenaries/Pages/WGMercenariesIndex.aspx

Other reports by the the Working Group to the Human Rights Council at its 24nd session, on missions to Somalia and Honduras: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session24/Pages/ListReports.aspx

For more information and media requests please contact: Natacha Foucard (+41 22 917 9458 /nfoucard@ohchr.org) or Junko Tadaki (+41 22 917 9298 / jtadaki@ohchr.org) or write to mercenaries@ohchr.org

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