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UN human rights experts call on Greece to strengthen oversight of private security industry

16 December 2022

ATHENS (16 December 2022) - The UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries and private military and security companies today welcomed Greece’s commitment to regulate the operations of private military and security companies.

During an eight-day official visit to the country, the human rights experts assessed the regulation of private security companies in Greece, and commended the practice of not outsourcing core governmental functions to private companies.

“This security model is a positive one, differentiating coercive functions of law enforcement authorities from others provided by private security companies,” the Working Group said in a statement.

The experts noted, however, the increasing use of such companies in the migration context, including in the closed controlled access centres (CCAC) operating in the Aegean islands, and warned against using this prison-like type of security model as a platform for the reception of asylum-seekers.

The Working Group also noted the use of high-tech security systems in the migration centres which includes cameras and motion sensors, and uses algorithms to automatically predict behaviours and flag threats such as the presence of guns, unauthorised vehicles, or unusual visits into these asylum centres. “These disproportionate security and surveillance measures developed by private technology companies infringe on the fundamental rights of those held in these centres, including their rights to freedom of movement and privacy,” the experts said.

Specific challenges also arise around the monitoring of the activities of foreign armed private security companies hired by Greek ship owners to provide security at sea. Effective regulation by Greece of their operations on board ships, particularly regarding labour standards for security personnel, needs implementing, they said.

“The Greek Government should consider establishing an independent monitoring and oversight mechanism to track the operations of private security companies and their personnel, and to ensure that such operations are fully respectful of human rights,” said the Working Group. “In particular, training on the provision of human-rights compliant security services should be systematically delivered to private security guards.

“We stand ready to cooperate with the Government of Greece and the private security industry to ensure that the delivery of security services respects the full range of human rights of those it serves, particularly the most vulnerable segments of the population.”

The delegation held meetings in Athens with representatives from relevant governmental authorities, non-governmental organisations, the private security industry and other stakeholders. It also visited the recently opened closed controlled access centre on the island of Samos.

The Working Group will present its findings and recommendations in a report to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2023.

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 in July 2005 by the then Commission on Human Rights. Its mandate was further extended by the Human Rights Council in 2022. The Group is comprised of five independent expert members from various regions of the world. The Chairperson-Rapporteur is Mr.Ravindran Daniel (India). Other members are Ms. Sorcha MacLeod (United Kingdom), Ms. Jelena Aparac (Croatia), Mr. Carlos Salazar Couto (Peru), and Mr. Chris Kwaja (Nigeria).

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.

For additional information and media requests, please contact: Ms. Alia El Khatib, OHCHR ([email protected])
Ms. Laura Ramirez, OHCHR ([email protected])

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact: Renato Rosario De Souza ([email protected]) or John Newland, UN Human Rights – Media Unit ([email protected])

Follow the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts

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