Private security companies lack oversight and regulation – UN working group

10 March 2008 –

A growing number of private security and military companies are operating domestically and internationally without effective oversight or accountability, the United Nations working group on the use of mercenaries warned today.

Presenting its report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the working group said that private security companies in such conflict-wracked countries as Iraq, Colombia and Afghanistan are recruiting former policemen and members of the military from developing countries as “security guards” in their operations.

Once there, those guards in fact become “militarily armed private soldiers,” which is essentially a new way to describe mercenaries, who are often responsible for serious human rights abuses, the working group stated.

War-torn States also frequently lack the capacity to control and regulate the private companies, the report noted, with national legislation granting immunity to the companies – which are sometimes transnational – in some cases. When this happens, the private guards are only accountable to their employers, and the working group said immunity can soon turn into impunity.

The working group, established in 2005 and composed of five independent experts serving in personal capacities, called for the wider ratification of the International Convention against the recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenaries.

It noted that as holders of the monopoly of the legitimate use of forces, States are and should be the main actors responsible for protecting and promoting human rights.

The working group’s members are José Luis Gómez del Prado of Spain (chairperson-rapporteur), Libya’s Najat al-Hajjaji, Amada Benavides de Pérez of Colombia, Russia’s Alexander Nikitin and Shaista Shameem of Fiji.


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Private security firms involved in new forms of mercenary activity – UN experts

Related Stories






In-depth Interviews