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UN experts call for justice and redress for victims of mercenary actors

20 September 2022

GENEVA (20 September 2022) – Human rights violations committed by mercenaries and private security companies create grave challenges for victims seeking justice and redress due to the particularity of the perpetrators and the way they operate, UN experts warned today.

In a report presented to the 51st session of the Human Rights Council, the Working Group on the use of mercenaries noted that the proliferating use of mercenaries and mercenary-related actors and private military and security companies in conflict, post-conflict and peacetime contexts, increases violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The expansion has increased violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and accountability is rare, the UN experts said.

“Deplorable gaps in accountability, access to justice, and remedies for victims of violations perpetrated by such actors are rampant,” said Sorcha MacLeod, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group, presenting the report to the Council.

The experts explained that the impacts of the operations of these actors in the contexts in which they operate are of grave concern. Persons in vulnerable situations, including women, children, migrants and refugees, people with disabilities, LGBTI+ persons, older persons, minorities, human rights defenders and journalists experiencing particularly negative impacts.

“Given this bleak situation, a holistic and victim-centred approach is imperative to ensure victims’ effective access to justice and remedy,” MacLeod said.

The report highlights the lack of accountability and the common challenges faced by victims in accessing justice and remedy including the secrecy and opacity surrounding the activities of mercenaries, mercenary-related actors, and private military and security companies; their complex business and corporate structures, issues related to jurisdiction; and gaps in national and international regulation.

“States have obligations under international human rights law to prevent, investigate, and punish violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and to provide effective remedies and reparation to victims of mercenaries, mercenary-related actors, and private military and security companies,” the experts said.

The adoption of national legislation to regulate the activities of these actors, punish perpetrators, and provide redress for victims are part of these implementation efforts,” the experts concluded.


*The Working Group on the use of mercenaries is comprised of five independent experts:  Sorcha MacLeod ( Chair Rapporteur)Jelena Aparac, Chris Kwaja, Ravindran Daniel and Carlos Salazar Couto. The Working Groups and Special Rapporteurs 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.

For more information and media requests, please contact: Ms. Krystel Abi Habib (+41 22 9178709 / [email protected],) or Ms. Laura Ramirez Barrios (+ 41 22 9178884 / [email protected]).  

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts, please contact Renato Rosario DeSouza ([email protected]) and Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected])

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