Monday, May 7, 2007


The United Nations working group on mercenaries has issued a report that merits close reading by everyone concerned with the quality of our lives, the state of democracy, and governance of our world. My thanks to Cyril Mychalejko at Dissident Voice for alerting me to this important report. Since the report speaks for itself, I shall simply provide a few quotes.

1) "PMSCs [private military and private security companies] in
Iraq commonly operate without control, without visibility, without being accountable beyond the private company itself, and in complete impunity."

2) "In Iraq, PMSC employees account for 3 of 10 soldiers deployed by the regular armed forces of the coalition. During the first Gulf War, in the early 1990s, only 1 of 100 was employed by a PMSC. The exponential expansion of PMSCs is not only reflected in the number of employees, but also in the quantity of contracts, which amounted to more than US$ 100 billion in 2006.7" (p 11)

3) "In its report to the General Assembly, the Working Group expressed its concern at the participation of the employees of two PMSCs in violating human rights, which occurred in the prison of Abu Ghraib (A/61/341, para. 69). These employees held key functions without being accountable to effective regulatory and control mechanisms, as the employees allegedly implicated have not been subject to any investigation nor sanctioned. Their alleged involvement, with others, in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal "has increased suspicion, especially from the United States military, of the reliability of (private) contractors" and contributed to hamper reconstruction efforts in Iraq.10 The Working Group is oncerned that these cases are not isolated, and could represent only a fraction of all cases." (p12)

4) "Another phenomenon of interest to the Working Group is the increasing use of force by PMSCs and private groups that are exercising domestic police functions in Latin American countries. This trend has led to a situation where in many countries the employees of PMSCs have surpassed the numbers of the police forces. For example, in Honduras, estimates vary that PMSCs, whether legally registered or illegal, effectively employ between 12,500 and 70,000 security guards, compared to the national police which has an estimated 8,000 police
(p 18)

5) "...the Working Group issues the following recommendations:
- The Working Group calls upon all States that have no yet done so to consider taking the necessary action to accede to or ratify the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries (entered in force in 2001). It encourages States parties to introduce national level legislation against mercenarism, through introducing and adopting specific provisions in the national criminal codes, or to introduce separate legislation on mercenaries. The Working Group also invites Member States to consider also regional standards for possible incorporation in domestic legislation, notably
where such instruments are adopted by subregional organizations, as is the case with African Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Economic Community of West African States;

- The Working Group recommends the urgent need to embark on a process of determining the future of the monopoly of States on the use of force, and suggests a process of regional preparatory round tables during 2007 to lead to a global round table in 2008;
- The Working Group urges States to meet the challenge of regulating and attributing the responsibility that arises from the structure and transnational nature of the PMSC industry and its global reach, as well as the exponential growth of the numbers and activities of PMSCs in different regions. To this end, the Working Group urges States to avoid granting blanket immunity, leading to effective impunity, to PMSCs and their personnel;
- The Working Group recommends thresholds of permissible activities, enhanced regulation and oversight of PMSCs at the national levels, including the establishment of regulatory systems of registration and licensing of PMSCs and individuals working for them. Such regulation should include defining minimum requirements for transparency and accountability of firms, screening and vetting of personnel, and establish a monitoring system including parliamentary oversight. States should impose a specific ban on PMSCs intervening in internal or international armed conflicts or actions aiming at destabilizing constitutional regimes;
- The Working Group recommends human rights components in ducation and training programmes to be offered to the staff of PMSCs, including on international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and United Nations standards on the use of force;"
(p 24-25).

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