Geneva, 25 September 2007: The United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries expresses its concern over the indiscriminate shooting in a populated neighborhood of Baghdad, on 16 September 2007, involving employees of a foreign private security company and resulting in the killing of over 10 Iraqi civilians, including children.
The Working Group welcomes the investigations underway to clarify the facts of this and other prior reported incidents of killings of civilians in Iraq by employees of foreign private security companies. It notes that in a number of situations of low intensity armed conflict or post conflict these private security companies have been given immunity through bilateral Government agreements or decrees. Immunity which in many cases becomes a sort of impunity.
The Working Group wishes to draw once more the attention of Member States to the inherent dangers of privatization and internationalization of the use of violence, one of the primary functions representing the sovereignty of the State and the basis of collective security under the UN Charter. Likewise, it underlines the responsibilities of States under international law to adequately regulate and control the conduct and behavior of private military/security guards.
The Working Group calls upon States to ensure that the military assistance, consultancy and security services offered by private companies at the international level neither impede the enjoyment of nor violate human rights. It recommends Governments of States from which these private companies are incorporated or registered, as well as States on whose territories these private companies operate, to adopt legislation to set up regulatory mechanisms to control and monitor their activities. This could include a system of registering and licensing, which would authorize these companies to operate under certain conditions, and allow them to be sanctioned when the norms are not respected. The Working Group urges Governments to avoid granting immunity to these companies and their personnel.
The Working Group takes this opportunity to encourage Member States to establish at the domestic levels necessary domestic regulation and oversight systems of the activities of private military and security companies. It also reiterates its call for States to accede to the International Convention against the Use, Recruitment, Financing and Training of Mercenaries.
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 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. Moreover, it has been requested to prepare draft international basic principles that encourage respect for human rights on the part of those companies in their activities.
The Working Group is composed of five independent experts serving in their personal capacities, and headed by its Chairperson-Rapporteur, Mr. José Luis Gómez del Prado (Spain). The other Working Group experts are: Ms. Najat al-Hajjaji (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya), Ms. Amada Benavides de Pérez (Colombia), Mr. Alexander Nikitin (Russian Federation) and Ms. Shaista Shameem (Fiji).
For more information on the resolution establishing the mandate 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.