Skip to main content

Press releases Special Procedures

South Africa should pursue efforts to strengthen regulatory framework for private military and security companies, say UN experts

South Africa / mercenaries

19 November 2010

19 November 2010

PRETORIA – “The Government of South Africa should pursue its efforts to strengthen the regulatory framework for private military and security companies exporting their services abroad,” said Alexander Nikitin, Chairperson of the United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries,* at the end of a ten-day visit to South Africa, which took the UN experts to Cape Town and Pretoria.

The Working Group thanked the Government of South Africa for the invitation extended to it. The Working Group expressed gratitude to all its interlocutors, including Government officials at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, the Department of State Security, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, the Department of Defence, the National Prosecuting Authority, the South African Police Service, parliamentarians, representatives of the diplomatic community, academics, journalists and representatives of the security industry.

“Since the period bringing an end to apartheid in 1994, South Africans have been widely employed by private military and security companies operating around the world. As a consequence, South Africa was one of the first countries to adopt legislation on the provision of foreign military assistance in 1998 and it must be commended for that,” said Mr. Gómez del Prado, member of the Working Group.

Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the regulatory regime established in South Africa for private military and security companies and individuals operating in different countries has faced challenges in terms of implementation. In addition, throughout the discussions with the authorities there was broad agreement that the attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea in 2004 provided added momentum to revise the legislation to address the whole spectrum of activities to be regulated. For instance, the Working Group noted that some of the South Africans involved in the attempted coup had been or were employed by private military and security companies.

The relevant legislation was thus revised in 2006. However, the new Act is still not in force as the regulations required for its entry into force and effective implementation have not yet been issued . Most importantly, Mr. Nikitin noted that “the Working Group recommends that the Government undertake the necessary steps to ensure that the regulatory regime envisaged in the legislation be strengthened and include a monitoring mechanism.” In particular, the Working Group emphasized the important role in the effective implementation of the legislation of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee which has been given the responsibility to authorize the export of military and security services to regulated countries.

The Working Group also recalled that the establishment of a regulatory and monitoring regime for private military and security companies is only a first step towards ensuring accountability in cases of human rights violations. In this regard, it said it particularly appreciates the significant role played by the South African Government in international efforts at the United Nations to establish an international regulatory framework, including a legally binding instrument (convention), to ensure the accountability of private military and security companies for human rights violations. The Working Group said it welcomed this strong support and expressed the hope that South Africa will continue to play a leadership role in this process.


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 was established in 2005 by the then Commission on Human Rights.

(*) The Working Group is composed of five independent experts serving in their personal capacities: Mr. Alexander Nikitin (Chairperson-Rapporteur, Russian Federation), Ms. Amada Benavides de Pérez (Colombia), Mr. José Luis Gómez del Prado (Spain), Ms. Najat al-Hajjaji (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) and Ms. Faiza Patel (Pakistan).

Learn more about the mandate and work of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries:

For more information and media requests, please contact Catherine Phuong (Tel: +41 79 444 3993 / email: [email protected]) or Karin Lucke (Tel: +41 79 752 0484 / [email protected]).