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Call for submissions: The evolving forms, trends and manifestations of mercenaries and mercenary-related activities

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 is mandated by the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC/RES/42/9) to monitor the use of mercenaries, mercenary related activities, and the activities of private military and security companies (PMSCs).

Background and objectives

Since the establishment in 1987 of a mandate on the use mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, the Working Group (and previously the Special Rapporteur) has examined the human rights impact of mercenaries and mercenary-related activities in different contexts. The Working Group has observed that, in general terms, the currently accepted meaning of the term 'mercenary' primarily captures persons who are paid to intervene in an armed conflict in a country other than their own. Despite being an old practice, mercenarism has significantly evolved over time and assumed new complex forms and characteristics. For instance, the Working Group found some similarities between foreign fighters and mercenaries (A/70/330).

2019 marked the 30th anniversary of the 1989 International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries. Over the years, the Working Group has consistently called upon States to ratify and implement this Convention, while recognising that the legal definition of a mercenary contained therein is exceedingly narrow and difficult to apply (A/71/318). The Working Group further notes that in February 2019, upon the initiative of Equatorial Guinea, the United Nations Security Council held a high-level debate on the issue of mercenaries in Africa. Speakers at the meeting reiterated their concerns around mercenary activities and called for greater attention on the issue.

Given the ongoing negative consequences of mercenary activity on human security and human rights, the Working Group decided to dedicate one of its thematic reports for 2020 to examining the contemporary nature, patterns and trends of mercenaries and mercenary-related activities. The Working Group hopes that its study will shine a light on the complexities and nuances between different actors involved in such activities; their impact on the human rights of concerned individuals and communities, including in relation to the right of peoples to self-determination; and related regulatory, oversight and accountability challenges.

Call for submissions

The Working Group invites all interested governments, civil society organizations, academics, international and inter-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, activists, private companies and others to provide information and views in writing to support the preparation of its thematic report.

While the Working Group welcomes any information deemed pertinent to the issue, it is particularly interested in the following areas:

1. Regulatory frameworks and their application

  • National legislative and regulatory frameworks, as elaborated in Military Codes or other instruments, on mercenaries and related issues (e.g. nationals engaged in military service abroad, foreign fighters etc.), including implementation of the 1989 International Mercenary Convention, Article 47 of the Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, and the 1977 OAU Convention for the Elimination of Mercenarism in Africa, as applicable.
  • Information and recent figures on investigations, arrests, prosecutions, convictions and penalties imposed on mercenaries and mercenary-related actors;
  • Observations on the level of implementation by States, regional and international bodies of the existing international legal framework on mercenaries, including impediments to regulate effectively the current forms, trends and manifestations of mercenaries and mercenary-related activities.

2. Current trends and developments

  • The types of services provided by mercenaries and mercenary-related actors as well as information on who they are, where they operate, their clients, the reasons behind their recruitment and the modalities behind the use of their services;
  • Trends and patterns regarding States of origin, motivational factors and professional backgrounds of mercenaries and mercenary-related actors;
  • The role of non-State armed groups and organised criminal groups in either using or providing mercenary and mercenary-related services;
  • Transnational, regional and national dynamics conducive to the use of mercenaries.

3. Human rights impacts of mercenaries and mercenary-related activities

  • Specific allegations about the use of mercenaries and mercenary-related actors in recent and ongoing conflicts, including methods of recruitment, motivational factors, training and financing;
  • Information on how the use of mercenaries and mercenary-related actors influence conflict dynamics;
  • Examples of the access to and use of advanced technologies and weaponry by mercenaries and mercenary-related actors; 
  • Specific allegations of human rights abuses committed or facilitated by mercenaries and mercenary-related actors, and violations of the right of peoples to self-determination linked to their use, including relevant gender-related and intersectional dimensions. 

How to send your written submission to the Working Group?  

Please send your submissions in English, French or Spanish in attachment to an email to and kindly indicate if you would like your submission to be published on the website of the Working Group or to be treated as confidential.

The deadline for submissions is 17 March 2020.

Submissions received

Member States

Other stakeholders