UN expert panel: Establish regulation for private military and security companies

Update: 12:56PM GENEVA-A UNITED Nations expert group has urged States to establish a comprehensive, legally binding instrument to regulate private military and security companies (PMSCs).

The call from the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries comes after a four-year-old study of national laws found they were not strong or consistent enough to deal with the issue.

“Our global study, which covers 60 States from all regions of the world, shows that there are more regulatory gaps than good practices in national laws concerning the industry,” said Gabor Rona, head of the Working Group, in his presentation to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“This is a growth industry in which the use of force is common, often in conflict situations where State governance is weak and the rule of law is compromised,” Mr Rona was quoted saying in a statement issued yesterday from the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR).

He said the global study showed that States approached regulation of those private firms in “an inconsistent and patchy manner”.

Mr Rona said grave human rights violations had often been committed in past conflicts at the hands of contractors who may not have been properly trained and vetted and did not answer to a military chain of command.

He adds the lack of robust regulation leads to impunity for war crimes and other violations of international law and leaves victims unable to obtain redress.

“Our main concern is not about whether PMSC operations are legal, but with the lack of strong legal frameworks in the industry to safeguard against human rights violations.

“Where such violations take place, it is essential to bring perpetrators to justice and provide effective remedies for victims.”

The working group has repeatedly called for an international legally binding instrument to address issues such as the extra-territorial activities of companies and to require that PMSC personnel be trained in human rights and humanitarian law standards.

“In an industry where companies commonly operate across borders, an international instrument would establish important and uniform obligations for States and PMSCs,” Mr Rona noted.

The working group noted that most mercenaries and foreign fighters had come from neighbouring countries through porous borders, and posed an ongoing threat to national stability as they had joined numerous armed groups.

It said strong regional cooperation was critical to solving the problem.

The group urged the government and international partners to prioritise the protection of civilians and bring perpetrators to justice, including mercenaries and foreign fighters who had committed human rights violations on all sides of past conflicts.

The Working Group on the use of mercenaries was established in July 2005 by the then Commission on Human Rights as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the rights of peoples to self-determination.

The group comprises five independent expert members from various regions of the world: Chairperson-Rapporteur – Gabor Rona (United States of America), Elżbieta Karska (Poland), Patricia Arias (Chile), Anton Katz (South Africa), and Saeed Mokbil (Yemen).

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