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Foreign fighters: UN expert group on mercenaries in fact-finding visit to Belgium

Mercenaries / Mission to Belgium

07 October 2015

GENEVA (8 October 2015) – A delegation of the United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries will visit Belgium from 12 to 16 October 2015 to gather information on the activities of foreign fighters going from the country to conflict zones abroad, as part of a comprehensive study on foreign fighters and their impact on human rights, including on possible links to mercenarism.

“During our visit we will meet with a wide range of stakeholders to learn more about motivational factors, recruitment, measures, and impact on international law and human rights, so that we can continue to develop practical recommendations and provide guidance for Governments,” said human rights expert El¿bieta Karska, who currently heads the expert group.

The visit to Belgium and EU institutions in Brussels follows a similar visit to Tunisia in July 2015. The expert group will present their first report on the issue of foreign fighters to the UN General Assembly this November, which will include the findings gathered in the context of their visits, and the information shared by UN Member States, UN entities and civil society.

The Working Group is mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to study and identify emerging issues, manifestations and trends regarding mercenaries or mercenary-related activities and their impact on human rights, particularly on the right of peoples to self-determination.

The group’s delegation will share with the media its preliminary observations at a press conference to be held on 16 October at UNRIC at 11:30 am, at Rue de la Loi, Wetstraat 155, 1040 Brussels. Access to the press conference is strictly limited to journalists.

The Working Group will present a full report of the country visit to the Human Rights Council in 2016.


The UN 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 in July 2005 by the then Commission on Human Rights. Its mandate was further extended by the Human Rights Council in 2008.

The Working Group is comprised of five independent expert members from various regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is El¿bieta Karska (Poland).  Other members are Patricia Arias (Chile), Anton Katz (South Africa), Gabor Rona (United States of America) and Saeed Mokbil (Yemen). Learn more, log on to:

The Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Belgium:

For more information and media requests, please contact:
During the mission: Christophe Verhellen, UNRIC, Brussels (+32 2 788 8454/ [email protected]
Before and after the mission: Ms. Alisa Clarke (+41 79 201 0119 / [email protected]) and Ms. Jolene Tautakitaki (+41 79 444 3993/ [email protected]) or write to [email protected]

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / [email protected])  

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