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Geneva, 6 November 2007: A number of private security companies operating in zones of armed conflict are engaging in new forms of mercenarism, the United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries concludes in its second report

The Working Group, which will present the report to the UN General Assembly in New York on 7 November 2007, says there has been a significant increase in the number of private security companies operating in conflict-ridden areas, notably in Afghanistan and Iraq. Though heavily armed, the “private security guards” the companies employ are neither civilians nor combatants, the Group notes. They represent a new form of mercenarism, similar to “irregular combatants”, itself an unclear concept, the Group adds.

The Working Group warns that States that employ these services may be responsible for violations of internationally recognized human rights committed by the personnel of such companies. Such violations are furthermore attributable to those States if the private military and private security companies are empowered to exercise elements of governmental authority or are acting under governmental direction or control.

The Working Group says it is concerned that only 30 States have ratified the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries as well as by the lack of regulation at the regional and national levels regarding private military and security companies which operate without oversight and accountability.

In light of the difficulty that war-torn States experience in regulating and controlling private military and private security companies, the Working Group considers that a significant part of that responsibility falls on States from where these transnational companies export military and security services. The Working Group urges exporting States to avoid granting immunity to these companies and their personnel.

In spite of its warnings to Governments including of those countries in which it has carried out field missions, the Working Group says it remains concerned that the recruitment of former military personnel and ex-policemen as “security guards” in zones of armed conflict such as Iraq seems to be continuing.

The Working Group on the use of mercenaries was established in 2005 by the Commission on Human Rights. Its mandate includes monitoring the impact of the activities of private military and security companies on the enjoyment of human rights.

The Working Group is composed of five independent experts serving in their personal capacities, and headed by its Chairperson-Rapporteur, José Luis Gómez del Prado (Spain). The other Working Group experts are: Najat al-Hajjaji (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya), Amada Benavides de Pérez (Colombia), Alexander Nikitin and Shaista Shameem (Fiji).

For more information on the mandate and activities of the Working Group, please consult the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at: www.ohchr.org/english/issues/mercenaries/index.htm.

FULL REPORT AVAILABLE AT/ RAPPORT DISPONIBLE SUR: http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/GA/62documents.htm