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UN experts visit the United States to discuss the use of private military and security contractors



17 July 2009


GENEVA – The UN 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 will carry out an official visit to the United States of America from 20 July to 3 August 2009.

“This visit comes at a moment where, I believe, the US Government is seriously considering options to ensure adequate oversight and monitoring for private military and security companies (PMSCs) contracted by the US government and operating abroad,” said the group’s Chairperson-Rapporteur, Shaista Shameem.

“It is crucial that the US Government, as a major client of these companies, demonstrates its commitment to ensure full accountability of private military and security contractors for any possible violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,” added Shameem, who will be joined during the visit by José Luis Gomez del Prado, another member of the Working Group.

Earlier this year, the Working Group on the use of mercenaries made a five-day visit to Afghanistan and -in May 2008- carried out a similar mission to the United Kingdom.

The UN experts plan to meet with government officials, representatives of the US Congress and Senate, civil society organizations and PMSCs in Washington DC and with civil society organizations in New York.

The Working Group will in particular focus on questions of transparency and accountability of PMSCs and their personnel, instances and circumstances which may give rise to impunity of contractors for violations of human rights, as well as guarantees for ensuring that victims of violations have access to effective remedies. It will also look into the general trend towards the privatization of war and its consequences.

On 3 August, at the end of their visit to the USA, the Working Group will hold a Press Conference at the UN offices in Washington DC. Address: 1775 K St NW, suite 430, Washington DC 2006. Phone: +1 202 331 8670 / e-mail: unicdc@unicwash.org

Parallel to its official visit to the USA, the Working Group will hold their seventh session in New York (from 27 to 31 July) and will in particular focus on their work on a possible international convention on the regulation, oversight and monitoring of PMSCs. On 28 July, the Chairperson will take part in a public policy forum on the regulation of PMSCs organised by the International Peace Institute.

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