Human Rights Council: little support for proposed convention regulating private security companies
Thursday, 23 September 2010 10:28


On 14 and 15 September 2010 the Human Rights Council held a dialogue with Ms Gulnara Shahinian, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, its causes and consequences, and Ms Amada Benavides de Pérez, the Chairperson of 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 (the Working Group). 


Much of the focus of the debate was on the Working Group, due to the presentation of its draft Convention on Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs). Several States, including the US and the UK were critical of the Working Group's work on PMSCs. The Chairperson also reported on official country visits to Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, and the US, and announced an upcoming visit to South Africa.


The Working Group recommended the Council establish an intergovernmental working group, tasked to develop a new convention based on the draft submitted. The aim of the convention would not be to ban PMSCs but to establish minimum standards to regulate such companies. The draft convention seeks to reaffirm State responsibility for the use of force and defines certain State functions that cannot be outsourced. The Working Group expects an expansion of the PMSC industry in the coming years. In this context, it underscored the necessity to regulate and monitor PMSCs, and prosecute them for crimes and violations of human rights.


Several States, including the US and many European States, expressed strong reservations against the drafting of a new convention. The US argued that there was no need for such a convention. It also claimed that by raising the issue of PMSCs, the Working Group had overstepped its mandate, which is limited to mercenaries.


Instead of a new convention, the European Union, the US, and the UK felt the best action would be self-regulation with professional associations, in line with the current Swiss initiative to create a code of conduct for PMSCs. Switzerland suggested self-regulation should be a steppingstone on the route to the creation of a convention, and the Chairperson of the Working Group seemed to agree with this.


On the other hand, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), African Group, Arab Group, Asian Group, and some Latin American States, voiced their collective support for the creation of an open-ended Working Group to draft a new convention on PMSCs.


Despite this foreseeable opposition, the Chair of the Working Group encouraged States to carefully consider the draft convention it proposed. South Aftrica is proposing a resolution that would establish a working group to draft a binding legal instrument on the 'regulation, monitoring and oversight on the impact of private military and security companies, on the enjoyment of human rights.'


The US's response to the visit of the Working Group was not entirely positive. The Chairperson thanked the Government for allowing the Working Group to visit and said the visit had been particularly important given the Government's heavy reliance on PMSCs in military operations. The Working Group urged progress on the Stop Outsourcing Security (SOS) Act, the establishment of federal licenses for these companies, and vetting for contracts. The US said there were several 'inaccuracies' in the report. The main disagreement was on the definition of PMSCs. The US claims many contractors are for 'logistical support', not for military security activities, and that self-regulation following the 'Montreux document' should suffice.


Due to an attempted coup in 2004, which allegedly involved mercenaries, former and current PMSC employees, the Working Group also visited Equatorial Guinea, but the full report on that visit will only be presented next year.


The Chairperson announced that a visit to South Africa would be undertaken soon.

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 September 2010 10:38
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