Rise in Mercenary Activities Warrants Urgent Attention, Says UN Expert Group
November 2, 2011
United Nations News Center
A UN expert panel warns of an alarming resurgence of the use of mercenaries in armed conflict, and calls for regulating private military and security companies, whose activities raise numerous human rights challenges. The UN Working Group report gave special attention to three countries -- South Africa, Equatorial Guinea and Iraq, where the US has created a vast mercenary army of private contractors that will remain behind after the US military forces withdraw from the country.
GENEVA (November 1, 2011) -- A United Nations expert panel today warned of an alarming resurgence of the use of mercenaries in armed conflict, and called for regulating private military and security companies, whose activities raise numerous human rights challenges.
"Mercenaries pose a threat not only to security, but also to human rights and potentially to the right of peoples to self-determination," said Faiza Patel, who currently heads the Working Group on the use of mercenaries. "It is crucial that States cooperate to eliminate this phenomenon."
While traditionally mercenaries are understood to be soldiers hired to fight in an armed conflict or to overthrow a government, they have been used by governments in some recent conflicts against their own populations.
In Côte d'Ivoire there is "considerable" evidence that the Government used some 4,500 Liberian mercenaries to avoid the results of a democratic election at the end of 2010, according to a news release issued by the five-member Working Group.
In Libya, foreign fighters' involvement in the repression of peaceful demonstrations was reported earlier this year. Such mercenaries were allegedly recruited from neighbouring African countries and Eastern Europe.
Ms. Patel, who presented the group's report to the General Assembly on Monday, told a news conference at UN Headquarters today that the panel will be visiting both Côte d'Ivoire and Libya in the next few months. Over the past year, it made three country visits -- Equatorial Guinea and South Africa in 2010, and Iraq in early 2011.
In addition to mercenaries, the "ever-expanding" activities of private military and security companies continue to raise a number of challenges, Ms. Patel said.
"Providing security to its people is a fundamental responsibility of the State and outsourcing security to private military and security companies creates risks for human rights, hence the need to regulate their activities."
She noted that these companies continue to undertake a growing range of activities in an increasing number of countries from drug-eradication programmes in Colombia to post-conflict reconstruction.
"And it is not just governments who take advantage of their services, but also NGOs [non-governmental organizations], private companies and the United Nations," she added.
For the Working Group, "the potential impact of the widespread activities of private military and security companies on human rights means that they cannot be allowed to continue to operate without adequate regulation and mechanisms to ensure accountability."
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
The Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the rights of peoples to self-determination was established in July 2005 pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolution 2005/2. It succeeded the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the use of mercenaries, which had been in existence since 1987 and was serviced by Mr. Enrique Bernales Ballesteros (Peru) from 1987 to 2004 and Ms. Shaista Shameem (Fiji). In March 2008, the Human Rights Council extended the mandate of the Working Group for a period of three years.
In paragraph 2 of resolution 7/21, the Human Rights Council requested the Working Group:
(a) To elaborate and present concrete proposals on possible complementary and new standards aimed at filling existing gaps, as well as general guidelines or basic principles encouraging the further protection of human rights, in particular the right of peoples to self-determination, while facing current and emergent threats posed by mercenaries or mercenary-related activities;
(b) To seek opinions and contributions from Governments and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations on questions relating to its mandate;
(c) To monitor mercenaries and mercenary-related activities in all their forms and manifestations in different parts of the world;
(d) To study and identify sources and causes, emerging issues, manifestations and trends regarding mercenaries or mercenary-related activities and their impact on human rights, particularly on the right of peoples to self-determination;
(e) To monitor and study the effects on the enjoyment of human rights, particularly the right of peoples to self-determination, of the activities of private companies offering military assistance, consultancy and security services on the international market, and to prepare a draft of international basic principles that encourage respect for human rights by those companies in their activities.
Mercenaries - Three Key Reports:
Iraq, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea
GENEVA (September 14, 2011) -- The United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries released three country mission reports on Iraq, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea, focusing on a wide range of issues such as immunity, lack of accountability, and links between mercenaries and private military and security companies.
"The reports provide insights into the experiences of three countries which have been particularly affected by the activities of mercenaries, private military and security companies, or a combination of both," said the new Chair-Rapporteur of the UN expert panel, Ms. Faiza Patel, who presented them to the UN Human Rights Council.
"Providing security to its people is a fundamental responsibility of the State," Ms. Patel said. "Outsourcing security creates risks for human rights and the Government of Iraq must remain vigilant and devote the necessary resources to ensure that private military and security companies -- whether international or Iraqi -- are stringently regulated and that they respect the human rights of the Iraqi people."
The report: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/18session/A.HRC.18.32.Add.4_en.pdf
"South Africa was one of the first countries in the world to adopt legislation which required Cabinet-level approval for the export of military and security services," noted the Working Group's Chair-Rapporteur. "This is a critical first step, but it remains to be implemented and must be accompanied by more direct means for ensuring redress for any human rights violations." T
he report: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/18session/A-HRC-18-32-Add3_en.pdf
"All mercenaries should be held accountable for their actions," Ms. Patel stressed. "Anyone accused of involvement in a mercenary-related incident should be tried by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal and in compliance with international human rights standards, and treated in accordance with such standards." The report:
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: Ms. Faiza Patel (Chair-Rapporteur, Pakistan), Ms. Patricia Arias (Chile), Mr. José Luis Gómez del Prado (Spain), Ms. Elżbieta Karska (Poland) and Mr. Anton Katz (South Africa).
Learn more about the mandate and work of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/mercenaries/index.htm
International Convention against the recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenaries: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/mercenaries.htm
The Working Group's draft of a possible Convention on Private Military and Security Companies: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/mercenaries/docs/A.HRC.15.25.pdf
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