YEREVAN/ GENEVA (27 February 2023) – UN experts today welcomed Armenia’s commitment to combat the proliferating use of mercenaries and private security actors, urging greater oversight and stronger integration of human rights into its domestic policies.
During an eight-day official visit to the country, the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries and private military and security companies gathered information on the laws and procedures criminalising mercenary activities. They also focused on the activities of private security companies and their impact on human rights.
“Armenia stands out in its efforts to integrate the 1989 UN Convention on Mercenaries in its domestic legislation, specifically in Article 147 of the Criminal Code which provides for a definition of mercenarism in compliance with international law,” the experts said in a statement issued at the end of the visit.
The experts received information that during a trial in Kapan, a regional court applied the legal framework criminalising mercenarism to convict two Syrian citizens for participating in military operations during the hostilities. Both individuals were sentenced to life in a trial that lasted only one day in May 2021.
The experts noted that the application of the legislation is at its embryonic stage, and encouraged the Armenian judiciary to guarantee that a victim-centred approach is applied in the future.
The experts also received information on the use of private security companies in the country.
“We welcome the amended law on private security activities, which establishes a clear regulatory framework for licensing and operations of private security service providers, including in the monitoring of demonstrations and crowd control,” the Working Group said.
The experts also noted that Armenia had initiated a reform on cyber security. “We urge the Government to ensure that laws regulating the role of the private security in cyber operations is human-rights compliant,” they said.
Noting the increasing use of private security companies by extractive industries, the UN experts expressed concern about the alleged involvement of private security contractors in dealing with concerns by local communities about the impact of these industries on their livelihoods and human rights.
“We strongly recommend the establishment of an independent oversight mechanism to monitor and oversee the private security sector,” the experts said. “Regular trainings on the provision of human-rights compliant and gender sensitive security services should be systematically delivered to private security guards,” they said.
The delegation of experts held meetings in Yerevan with representatives from governmental authorities, non-governmental organisations, and legal representatives. They also met with affected communities in Kapan and Goris.
The Working Group will present a full report of its findings and recommendations to the Human Rights Council in September 2023.
The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and 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.