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EXPERT GROUP ON MERCENARIES CONCLUDES VISIT TO AFGHANISTAN


8 April 2009

The United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, represented by Amada Benavides de Perez and Alexander Nikitin, concluded its five-day visit to Afghanistan today. The objectives of the visit were to discuss with Government authorities and relevant stakeholders the scope and nature of the activities of private military and security companies in Afghanistan and their impact on the enjoyment of human rights. The Working Group also gathered information about national efforts to regulate such companies in the context of its current work on elaborating a new international convention on private military and security companies.

The Working Group was particularly interested to learn about the draft law on private security companies introduced to Parliament on 6 April and looks forward to following closely developments in this regard and the speedy adoption of legislation and other measures which would ensure oversight and monitoring by the State of private security companies and their full accountability, and full protection of human rights, including the right of victims to an effective remedy.

In Kabul, the Working Group met with representatives of the Office of the President, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice, Interior and Defence, as well as the chairs and members of the Committee on Legislative Affairs of the Wolesi Jirga, and the Committee on Internal Security, National Security and Local Organs of Power of the Meshrano Jirga. The Group also had the opportunity to meet with representatives of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and heard the views of civil society and representatives of the industry. Meetings were also held with representatives of the international community, including the Embassies of the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and specialized agencies. The Working Group also visited Jalalabad, where it met with the Provincial Governor and other authorities.

The Working Group discussed the challenges facing the Government of Afghanistan vis-à-vis the current security situation, the growth in both national and international private security companies, and the Government’s vision and plans to ensure protection of the population and the control of the use of force by the State. It notes the concerns of the Government and its efforts to ensure regulation of private security companies, including the February 2008 "Procedure for Regulating Activities of Private Security Companies in Afghanistan" as an interim measure, as well as its effective implementation. The Working Group will continue to follow with interest the current legislative process.

The Working Group also received information about the impact of international and national private security companies on Afghan society and on the human rights and security situation. Questions of accountability of non-State actors, the rights of victims to an effective remedy and the regulatory structure for private security companies were also discussed as important concerns in ensuring the protection of human rights in Afghanistan.

The information received about national measures to regulate the industry will greatly assist the Working Group in its current work to elaborate a new international convention on private military and security companies. In view of the current scarcity of examples of national legislation to address this phenomenon, the experience of Afghanistan will be an important contribution to this endeavour. The Working Group looks forward to the Government of Afghanistan’s valuable contribution.

The Working Group will draw up a detailed report on its visit to Afghanistan, which will be presented to the Human Rights Council and reflected in the forthcoming report to the next session of the General Assembly.

The Working Group expresses its gratitude to the Government of Afghanistan for the invitation extended to its members to visit the country and would also like to express its appreciation for the constructive dialogue it has held with several ministries and relevant stakeholders, including civil society and the international community.

The Working Group on the use of mercenaries was established in 2005 by the Commission on Human Rights. It is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Human Rights Council to, inter alia, monitor and study the effects on the enjoyment of human rights, particularly the right to self-determination, of the activities of private companies offering military assistance, consultancy and security services on the international market, and to engage in the elaboration of new legal instruments for regulation of activities of private military and security companies.

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

For more information on the Working Group, please contact Ms. Julie Tétard on +41 22 917 9603, or consult the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/mercenaries/index.htm


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