Call for inputs on upcoming country visit to Switzerland, 13-17 May 2019

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 will conduct an official country visit to Switzerland from 13 to 17 May 2019 at the invitation of the Government. Ahead of this visit, the Working Group would welcome information from all interested individuals, organizations and companies.

In accordance with its mandate from the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Working Group considers issues related to the use of mercenaries and mercenary-related activities in all their forms and manifestations, as well as the activities of private military and security companies, with a view to assessing their impact on the enjoyment of human rights, particularly the right of peoples to self-determination. For more information about the mandate, please refer to the Working Group’s website.

Purpose of country visits

Country visits are undertaken following an invitation by the Government and are prepared and conducted in close cooperation with the State concerned. Two or three members of the Working Group form the delegation carrying out the visit. During the visit, the delegation aims to meet a wide range of stakeholders, including governmental institutions, members of civil society, private military and security companies and other private actors, and relevant inter-governmental agencies. Through such visits, the Working Group examines challenges, and identifies and facilitates the exchange of good practices. The visit concludes with a press conference where the delegation presents its preliminary findings.

Following the country visit, the Working Group presents a report at the Human Rights Council with findings, conclusions and recommendations to the State concerned. The Working Group hopes that the conclusions and recommendations it makes may serve as a useful tool for States to improve policies and practices, regulatory frameworks and oversight and accountability mechanisms pertaining to mercenaries, mercenary-related actors and private military and security companies in view of strengthening the protection of human rights. Information about countries visited by the Working Group is available on its website.

Call for inputs

In accordance with the established practice of mandate-holders, the Working Group invites all interested individuals, organizations and companies to provide input for the preparation of its visit to Switzerland. While all submissions are welcome, the Working Group is specifically interested in receiving input and comments on the following topics:

In relation to private military and security companies:

  • Policy, legal and regulatory frameworks, and accountability mechanisms at the national and regional (canton) levels to ensure the respect of human rights by private military and security companies operating domestically and/or internationally
  • Status of implementation of existing policies, legal and regulatory frameworks and accountability mechanisms, including challenges and good practices
  • The role of clients, including  public institutions, private entities, and non-governmental organisations (e.g. the inclusion of human rights concerns into procurement rules and contracts with private security and military companies)
  • Recent data on the number, workforce and types of services provided by private security and military companies operating and/or registered in Switzerland, and recent analytical reports or surveys on their activities
  • Specific allegations of human rights abuses by private security and military companies operating and/or registered in Switzerland, and information regarding how such cases are handled.

In relation to mercenary and mercenary-related issues:

  • Policy, legal framework and oversight mechanism pertaining to the recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenaries or mercenary-related actors as well as state of implementation
  • Alleged cases of mercenary or mercenary-related activities in Switzerland or by Swiss nationals abroad.

Other issues

  • Suggestions on issues to examine as well as relevant organisations, companies and individuals to meet and related locations to visit
  • The Working Group seeks to adopt a gender-sensitive and intersectional approach in all its work and would welcome any information that may shed light on specific gendered impacts of the above questions, as well as information relating to sexual orientation and gender identity, disability, race, age or other issues, as relevant.

How to submit information

Respondents are requested to limit their comments to a maximum of 1,500 words. Additional supporting materials, such as reports, academic studies, and other types of background materials may be annexed to the submission. Kindly submit information by 3 May 2019 to mercenaries@ohchr.org in English or French.

All submissions will be treated confidentially with the purpose of preparing for the visit, and will not be attributed to specific individuals or organizations. The Working Group appreciates the effort that goes into making such contributions and looks forward to reading them.

Media inquiries

Media inquiries, including requests to join the Working Group’s press list, may be directed to mercenaries@ohchr.org.

A media advisory about the visit will be issued prior to the visit, including details of the press conference at the end of the visit on 17 May 2019, at which time the Working Group will be in a position to comment on its substantive findings and conclusions.