UN expert group calls for robust international regulation of private military and security companies

NEW YORK/GENEVA (4 November 2013) – Governments worldwide must recognize the need for a legally binding international agreement to regulate the use and activities of private military and security companies (PMSCs) to complement existing regulatory mechanisms, the United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries urged today.

“Providing security is a fundamental human right and a fundamental responsibility of the State,” said independent expert Anton Katz, who currently chairs the five-member UN expert group. “But the ever expanding activities of PMSCs continue to raise a number of challenges, and the outsourcing of security to these companies by States create risks for human rights, hence the need to regulate their activities.”

Mr. Katz stressed during the presentation of the Working Group’s report* to the UN General Assembly that existing national legislation is not sufficient to address the challenges posed by PMSCs, due to inadequacies related registering and licensing, and the lack of effective and transparent mechanisms and remedies for human rights violations.

“These limitations are worsened by the transnational nature of PMSCs and the difficulties in ensuring accountability for any human rights violations that may occur,” the expert said. “The Working Group is thus currently encouraging States to recognize the need for an internationally legally binding instrument that will complement existing mechanisms in regulating PMSCs.”

Mr. Katz also referred to the value of self-regulatory initiatives such as the Montreux Document and the International Code of Conduct which have been established by a number of States and corporate actors in the past years to try and address the challenges posed by PMSCs. “However,” he warned, “these initiatives are not legally binding and cannot be considered as complete solutions for the problems concerning PMSCs.”

On the issue of mercenaries, the independent expert noted that it is still a live issue. “Recent events in several parts of the world clearly demonstrate that mercenaries remain a threat not only to security but also to human rights and the right of peoples to self-determination. We continue to call on States to cooperate in eliminating this phenomenon.”

The Working Group’s report to the General Assembly covered its activities in the past year including two country visits to Somalia and Honduras and an expert panel event in New York that focused on the use of PMSCs by the United Nations.

A national legislation project has also been launched by the Working Group to look into analysing good practices and possible shortcomings in States’ protection of human rights in transnational security related activities. The Working Group has also embarked on a study on United Nations use of PMSCs which will be the focus of its report to the General Assembly in 2014.

(*) Check the Working Group’s report to the UN General Assembly: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Mercenaries/WGMercenaries/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx


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:

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

For more information and media requests, please contact:
In New York: Nenad Vasic (+1 212 963 5998 / vasic@un.org)
In Geneva: Natacha Foucard (+41 22 917 9458 /nfoucard@ohchr.org) or Jolene Tautakitaki (+41 22 917 9363 / jtautakitaki@ohchr.org) or write to mercenaries@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Cécile Pouilly, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org)

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