Increased use of private security providers need closer monitoring

The increased use of private security providers by States for many traditional functions such as providing security during demonstrations or running prisons, calls for clearer guidelines on responsibility and monitoring, a UN Expert said.

“The increasing movement toward the privatization of security raises questions as to the roles, responsibilities and ultimately accountability in relation to human rights violations and abuses,” said Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. “States should not be able to distance themselves from responsibility for the grave abuses by simply changing their contractor.”

Heyns presented his last report to the Human Rights Council this week. He provided some context for the work that he had done as well as briefed on his final missions and activities.

In his report, Heyns highlights the differing accountability mechanisms in place that could allow less than thorough investigation of human rights abuses by private security groups. He said there is a pressing need for accountability.

“Given the inherent risks of abuse of rights associated with security work, close attention should be paid to the trigger of liability concerned,” he said. “Laws should not grant a company the right to exculpate itself from intentional or grossly negligent excessive force resulting in death or serious injury. Without a standard of strict liability, victims will often have not effective recourse as the individual perpetrator is often devoid of means.”

Heyns also recommended better monitoring of the use of force by these providers. The report makes a variety of recommendations including that States keep a register of and issue licenses to private security providers operating in their borders; clarify the responsibilities of private security providers in relations to human rights when operating locally and abroad; and implement a system of mandatory reporting of lethal incidents, whether by the State law enforcement agents or private security personnel.

27 June 2016

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