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14 April 2008

GENEVA- - Complementary international human rights standards are needed to address new forms of mercenary activities and those of private military security companies, the United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries said today at the conclusion of its third session.

The group, which was established in 2005, also elected a new chairman, Alexander Nikitin, and discussed its upcoming programme of work which will include organising a regional meeting for eastern European countries and the Commonwealth of Independent States and conducting country visits. It is scheduled to visit the United Kingdom and Afghanistan during the course of the year.

The regional meeting is part of ongoing efforts that the group hopes will lead to a high-level roundtable of states where they will discuss their own role as the holder of the legitimate use of force, the role of private military security companies and other actors, and their respective obligations in protecting human rights.

The group, which has expressed concerns that a number of private security companies operating in zones of armed conflict are engaging in new forms of mercenary activities, is working to fill existing legal gaps in the regulation of mercenaries, mercenary-related activities and activities of private military security companies.

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.

The Working Group is composed of five independent experts serving in their personal capacities, and headed by its Chairperson-Rapporteur, Mr. Alexander Nikitin (Russian Federation). The other Working Group experts are: Ms. Najat al-Hajjaji (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya), Ms. Amada Benavides de Pérez (Colombia), José Luis Gómez del Prado (Spain). 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: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/mercenaries/index.htm