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Call for inputs: Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries to be presented to the Human Rights Council during its 54th session

Issued by

Working Group on the use of mercenaries


12 July 2023


Issued by Special Procedures



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In the present report, 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 examines the recruitment of mercenaries and mercenary-related actors and the phenomenon of predatory recruitment.


Pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 51/13, 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 (the Working Group) monitors the use of mercenaries, mercenary related activities, and the activities of private military and security in all their forms and manifestations. The Working Group is mandated to study and identify sources and causes, emerging issues, manifestations and trends with regard to mercenaries and mercenary-related activities and private military and security companies and their impact on human rights, particularly on the right of peoples to self-determination.

Twice a year, the Working Group on the use of mercenaries issues calls for inputs to inform its thematic studies to be presented at the Human Rights Council in its September session and at the UN General Assembly in October.

The Working Group intends to dedicate its next thematic report to recruitment including predatory recruitment of mercenaries and mercenary related actors, the report will be presented to the Human Rights Council in 2023.


The concept of predatory recruitment has been described as an emerging phenomenon whereby individuals are recruited as mercenaries in a way that takes advantage of their vulnerabilities. This type of recruitment often involves individuals from low socioeconomic and conflict-affected backgrounds, who see an opportunity for a way out of extreme poverty. These individuals are often lured into enlisting by false promises of economic stability and citizenship, sometimes believing they are being contracted to perform security activities, unaware that they are being deployed to fight in armed conflicts, or in other cases falling victim to enlistment by mercenary-related entities. In some cases, they are recruited under duress or out of fear of reprisals against their families. Furthermore, these practices raise concern about coerced recruitment and trafficking in persons for purposes of forced labour.

There are also reports indicating the recruitment of individuals by private military and security companies, often from rural areas or foreign countries who are subjected to labour exploitation. Many accumulate debts, live in isolation when they are deployed and are in irregular migratory situations.

The Working Group has noted with concern the multi-layered victimization suffered by individuals who are targets of predatory recruitment, those affected are often themselves victims of armed conflicts and their vulnerability exacerbated in the recruitment process and aggravated through deployment in armed conflicts in foreign countries. This practice has damaging repercussions and harmful effects on the individuals recruited as well as on families and communities left behind, particularly women and girls. The Working Group has also been informed of the recruitment of children for mercenary activities, against their will, and in some cases encouraged by their parents. 

The Working Group is therefore particularly keen to understand in depth the phenomenon of recruitment including predatory recruitment, its root causes, the profile and particular context of those targeted and human rights violations perpetrated in connection to this practice, and also discuss possible ways to tackle it.

Scope of study and key questions

The Working Group welcomes submissions from States, civil society organizations, academics, international and inter-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, private companies, individuals, and any other concerned actors.

The Working Group welcomes any information deemed pertinent to the topic, and is particularly interested in the issues mentioned below. In addressing the indicated thematic issues, please provide to the extent available, examples, illustrations of good or bad practices, and recommendations that you consider important in the context of this call for inputs, as well as any analysis on future developments in this area.

While all submissions are welcome and the questions below are not meant to be exhaustive, the Working Group would be grateful for comments that address topics, including:

  1. Recruitment process
  • Modes of recruitment and actors involved in the recruitment of mercenaries, mercenary-related actors and PMSC. The role of state and non-state actors in predatory recruitment.
  • Contexts in which predatory recruitment takes place, root causes and vulnerable situations in which recruited individuals find themselves.
  • Places of recruitment (e.g. detention centres, prisons, migrant detention centres).
  • The profile, background and analysis of individuals that are particularly vulnerable to predatory recruitment. The differentiated impact of recruitment over individuals themselves and their families.
  1. Impact of the recruitment
  • Focus on the impact of this practice on different groups including inter-alia, women, children, migrants and refugees, among others.
  • The types of human rights violations perpetrated in the context of recruitment including predatory recruitment, the context in which they take place and the impact on the individuals affected and their families. 
  • The role of women in addressing and responding to predatory recruitment.
  1. Challenges and access to justice
  • Main challenges related to tackling predatory recruitment and human rights violations perpetrated in this context, and the barriers encountered by victims to access justice and remedy.
  • Recommendations in terms of the appropriate approaches to prevent predatory recruitment and seek accountability and remedy for human rights violations perpetrated in the context of recruitment.