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UNITED NATIONS WORKING GROUP ON USE OF MERCENARIES CONCLUDES VISIT TO CHILE

The UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries issued the following statement in Santiago, Chile, on 14 July 2007:

Santiago, 14 July 2007: The United Nations 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 has concluded its visit to Chile, which took place from 9 to 13 July 2007.

The Working Group conveys its gratitude to the Government of Chile for the invitation extended to its members to visit the country and would also like to express its appreciation for the cooperative and constructive dialogue it has held with the executive, legislative and judicial authorities and other State organs. Over the course of the visit, the Working Group delegation met with Ministers, Under-Secretaries and other State officials at the Ministry of the General Secretariat of the Presidency, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of National Defence, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance; the Senate Committee on Human Rights, Nationality and Citizenship and the Chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defence; the House of Deputies’ Committee on Human Rights; the President of the Supreme Court of Justice; the National Prosecutor; the Commander-in-Chief of the Army; the Chief of the National Defence Staff; the Army Assessor-General; the Assessor of the Santiago 2nd Military Court and the Prosecutor of the Santiago 5th Military Prosecutor’s Office; the Director-General of the Police (Carabineros) and the Director-General of the Chile Investigation Police (Investigaciones). The Working Group delegation also had the opportunity to meet with sectors of Chilean civil society, including representatives of non-governmental organizations, academics, private security companies, individuals and the media.

It also expresses its gratitude for all the support given by the United Nations system in Chile and its Resident Coordinator, as well as the Regional Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, based in Santiago, Chile.

During its visit to Chile, the Working Group collected information useful for the fulfillment of its mandate, which is to study and identify current manifestations and problems as well as emerging trends regarding mercenaries, mercenary-related activities and the role of private security and military companies and their possible impact in impeding the enjoyment and exercise of human rights.

In accordance with the usual practice of United Nations human rights special procedures, the Working Group will draw up a detailed report on its visit to Chile. This report will be submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council and reflected in the report addressed to the General Assembly.

The Working Group wishes today to provide some preliminary conclusions and comments on its mission.

During its visit, the Working Group considered information concerning the recruitment, training and contracting of Chileans to work with private security companies in Iraq, as well as the circumstances, conditions and situations faced by such recruits. Information from various sources indicates contractual irregularities and poor working conditions, including overcrowding, excessively long working hours, unpaid or partially paid salaries, harassment and isolation, a failure to ensure basic standards such as health and hygiene and lack of attention to serious physical injuries. Although contracted as security guards, the recruits were given military training in the United States, Jordan or Iraq and eventually performed military functions not covered in their contracts.

In this respect, it should be noted that the Chilean authorities responded promptly to this phenomenon and brought appropriate judicial cases before both the military and the ordinary courts, some of which are still awaiting judgment.

Nevertheless, the Working Group expresses its concern at information received during its visit to the effect that various private security companies are still recruiting Chilean nationals to perform security duties in Iraq. These companies are not registered in Chile, and some are reported to be branches of United States companies, which would indicate that there are loopholes in internal legislation.

It is also aware that some private security companies, by recruiting personnel in countries of high unemployment to provide security services in areas of armed conflict, are responsible for new forms of mercenarism which may initially have taken the authorities of the countries concerned by surprise. It wishes nevertheless to affirm that the United Nations General Assembly has repeatedly drawn the attention of Member States to the fact that “notwithstanding the way in which they are used or the form that they take to acquire some semblance of legitimacy, mercenaries or mercenary-related activities are a threat to peace, security and the self-determination of peoples and an obstacle to the enjoyment of all human rights by peoples”. Furthermore, the recruitment of Chileans for Iraq, which began in 2003, appears to be a continuing phenomenon.

Another purpose of the Working Group’s mission was to promote Chile’s accession to the 1989 International Convention against the recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenaries. It was informed of the measures undertaken by the Chilean State in this regard. These measures include: a draft bill submitted to the Chamber of Deputies’ Committee on Defence for Chile’s accession to the Convention; the establishment of an inter-institutional working group to study provisions to be adopted in internal legislation with a view to developing efficient and modern rules for the penalization, deterrence and punishment of new modalities related to mercenarism; replacement of the current law on private security services (Vigilancia Privada) by a new law on private security (Seguridad Privada); and draft bills concerning the reform of military careers.

In its preliminary study on the legislation, regulation and supervision of private security companies, the Working Group noted with satisfaction that such activities were subject to extensive regulations and controls in the country. However, following the exponential growth of this activity in recent years (above the world average and that of other Latin American countries), and in view of the related risks and the need to ensure respect for international human rights standards, greater control would be desirable, particularly with a view to preventing possible abuses by private security personnel.

In this connection and with reference to the implications of actions vis-à-vis indigenous peoples by private security companies contracted by forestry businesses, the Working Group received information from various sources indicating abuses of the human rights of indigenous communities, particularly of the right to freedom of movement, as well as of harassment and criminal accusations against indigenous people apparently being made by security guards. The Working Group is concerned that the State is ceding its right to use force and ensure security to private companies which can in their turn commit unlawful acts. These acts, taken together with a lack of information and failure by the authorities concerned to focus on such offences, may lead to situations of impunity.

The Working Group wishes to congratulate the Chilean State on all the aforementioned measures and actions and to present the following preliminary recommendations:

- That the inter-institutional working group conclude its study on penalization and legislation at the national level with a view to adopting the broadest possible criteria, including not only the offence of being a mercenary but also new modalities of mercenarism, as well as necessary amendments to the draft bill before the Chamber of Deputies’ Committee on Defence, thus allowing Chile promptly to accede to the 1989 International Convention against the recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenaries;

- That the authorities concerned swiftly conclude their investigations, especially in the military courts, concerning the case brought against Red Táctica;

- That urgent measures be taken to safeguard the rights of Chilean nationals still working in Iraq under the conditions mentioned above;

- That the new law on private security enshrine the right of all persons to security as a legal right, and that the new legislation integrate the principles of effectiveness in relations between the public and private sectors, transparency, responsibility and accountability, especially with respect to the gathering of information on abuses by private security personnel, the punishment of such abuses, and appropriate training with a focus on human rights and equity to ensure that the public right to security is accessible to the entire population;

- That encouragement be given to the creation of a body at the highest executive level (Ministry or Office of Under-Secretary) with competence to regulate both private security companies and new modalities of mercenarism;

- That consideration be given to the possibility of seeking technical assistance from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in order to codify provisions on the crime of mercenarism and incorporate them into national legislation;

- That consideration be given to the possibility of convening a multi-disciplinary seminar to disseminate the conclusions of the inter-institutional working group and the report on Chile of the United Nations working group on the use of mercenaries, with a view to including the seminar’s recommendations in public policies.

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The Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the rights of peoples to self-determination was established by the Commission on Human Rights in 2005.

The Working Group is composed of five independent experts, serving in their personal capacities, and is headed by its Chairperson-Rapporteur, Mr. José Luis Gomez del Prado (Spain). The other Working Group experts are Ms. Najat Al-Hajjaji (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya), Ms. Amada Benavides (Colombia), Mr. Alexander Nikitin (Russia) 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.