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UK private military and security companies could support regulation, says UN expert group

05 June 2008

5 June 2008

GENEVA-- The United Kingdom’s private military and security companies (PMSC) would support the establishment of a national and international system of regulation of their activities, the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries said in concluding a mission to the country last week. The Group also welcomed the companies’ willingness to agree on a set of basic principles.

The Working Group, which traveled to the UK from 26 to 30 May, however noted with concerns that criminal accountability of individuals working for UK registered companies is in most cases not covered by British national laws. It was also deeply concerned that in spite of numerous national efforts, notably the 2002 Government Green Paper on the regulation of such activities, no significant move forward has been initiated since 2005.

During its visit, the Working Group considered information on the system of regulation of activities of PMSCs registered in the United Kingdom. It also met with civil society actors and shared their concerns that the impact of some of the activities carried on by PMSCs, like the use of lethal force and interrogation of detainees, have on the enjoyment of human rights.

The Working Group collected information useful for the fulfillment of its mandate, which is in part to monitor and study 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 and to prepare a draft of international basic principles that encourage respect for human rights by those companies in their activities.

The Working Group will draw up a detailed report on its visit to the United Kingdom which will be submitted at an upcoming session of the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly.

The Working Group conveys its gratitude to the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for the invitation extended to its members to visit the country and would also like to express its appreciation for the cooperative and constructive dialogue it has held with the different government departments. Over the course of the visit, the Working Group delegation met with State officials at the Foreign Commonwealth Office, the Department for Business, Enterprises and Regulatory Reform, the Ministry of Defense and the Department for International Development. The Working Group delegation also had the opportunity to meet with representatives of the civil society, including representatives of non-governmental organizations and academics, and with representatives of private military security companies.

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 was established by the Commission on Human Rights in 2005.

The Working Group is composed of five independent experts, serving in their personal capacities, and is headed by its Chairperson-Rapporteur, Mr. Alexander Nikitin (Russia). The other Working Group experts are Ms. Najat Al-Hajjaji (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya), Ms. Amada Benavides (Colombia), Mr. José Luis Gomez del Prado (Spain)and Ms. Shaista Shameem (Fiji).

For more information on the resolution establishing the mandate of the Working Group, please consult the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at: