The UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries issued the following statement in Suva, Fiji, on 18 May 2007:
Suva, 18 May 2007: The United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries has conducted a fact-finding visit to Fiji from 14 to 18 May 2007, following consultations with Fijian authorities since 2005. The Working Group delegation was headed by its Chairperson-Rapporteur, Mr. José Luis Gomez del Prado, and included Working Group member Mr. Alexander Nikitin.
This UN Working Group is a mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council and was established with a specific mandate to study issues of mercenaries, mercenary-related activities and the effects on the enjoyment of human rights of the activities of private companies offering military assistance, consultancy and security services on the international market.
The Working Group will prepare and report on its visit to Fiji to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.
It takes this opportunity to express some initial and preliminary observations on its visit:
The Working Group expresses its gratitude to all its interlocutors including the interim Prime Minister, interim Minister for Foreign Affairs, interim Attorney-General, interim Minister for Labour, Acting interim Minister for Finance, Deputy Commander of the Royal Fiji Military Forces, Acting Police Commissioner, Acting Chief Justice, as well as the former Prime Minister and a former Minister of Labour. The Working Group also held consultations with the Acting Chair, Commissioner and Director of the Fiji Human Rights Commission, representatives of Fiji Law Society, Fiji Trade Unions Congress and several non-governmental organizations, academics at the University of the South Pacific, as well as employment agents and current and former employees of private security companies, and other individuals. The Working Group also met with United Nations agencies, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and a number of representatives of the diplomatic community.
The Working Group notes that Fiji has an established tradition of well trained, disciplined and highly skilled military and security personnel, who perform security functions in various capacities worldwide. It also recognizes the important contributions of remittances from Fijian migrant workers in the field of security and other sectors to the economy of the country.
However, the Working Group notes with concern that in a number of instances the activities carried out by Fijians abroad may qualify as mercenary-related activities.
The Working Group is concerned with information received about some aspects of activities of Fijians recruited to work for private companies offering military assistance, consultancy and security services in situations of violence and armed conflict such as in Iraq. The Working Group has also received information of situations where Fijians recruited for these private security companies have been exploited. Thousands of Fijians were in recent years, for example, lured into paying fees for prospective security work abroad which did not materialize. In other instances, the contracts were signed under fraudulent conditions, either immediately upon departure or upon arrival in the country of destination. Once performing security work in countries abroad, many Fijians have experienced contractual irregularities and poor working conditions, including excessive working hours, partial or non-payment of salaries, ill-treatment and the neglect of basic needs such as access to medical services.
Unemployment, and/or underemployment, a migratory population ready to perform security work abroad, and largely unmonitored activities of private security companies in Fiji have facilitated these recruitments in Fiji.
The Working Group has been informed of the limited reintegration measures available to Fijians having performed security work abroad upon the return to their communities in Fiji. Such measures are necessary to prevent domestic violence and the spread of sexually transmittable diseases.
The existence of traditional forms of mercenarism continue to persist, as demonstrated in cases such as when former Fijian soldiers were recruited in 2005 to undertake mercenary activities in Papua New Guinea on the autonomous island province of Bougainville.
In all, the Working Group has noted the absence of national legislation and measures in Fiji to effectively address the issues of mercenaries, mercenary-related activities and the effects of private security companies. It encourages the Fiji authorities to take positive action in order to ensure that private security companies operate in a legal framework in full accordance with international human rights standards.
In light of the above, the Working Group presents the following preliminary recommendations, which will be reflected in its forthcoming report to the Human Rights Council:
- The accession to the 1989 International Convention Against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries.
- The development of national legislation to address mercenaries, mercenary-related activities and the activities of private companies offering military assistance, consultancy and security services on the international market. This can take place through introducing such elements in the penal and/or labour legislation, or through the elaboration of a separate comprehensive law.
- The establishment of a system of regulation, licensing, control and monitoring of the activities of private security companies in order to provide effective oversight. This would include the authorities to maintain transparent registers of private security companies, including all matters concerning ownership, statutes, purposes and functions as well as a system of regular inspections to ensure accountability.
- The adoption of measures to address issues of reintegration and post-traumatic stress disorder in individuals returning from security work abroad by establishing a comprehensive system of debriefing and professional counseling.
- The accession to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, as these instruments would also strengthen the protection of Fijians contracted for security work abroad.
The Working Group extends its cooperation and technical assistance to support the implementation of these and forthcoming recommendations.
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The Working Group was established by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 2005 and is composed of five independent experts serving in their personal capacities. The Working Group is headed by its Chairperson-Rapporteur, Mr. José Luis Gómez del Prado (Spain). The other Working Group members 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 and its activities, please consult the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights at http://www.ohchr.org/English/issues/mercenaries/index.htm