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Predatory recruitment of mercenaries must end: UN experts

19 September 2023

GENEVA (19 September 2023) – The growing phenomenon of predatory mercenary recruitment is taking root in many armed conflicts around the world and requires urgent attention and solutions based on multilateral cooperation, UN experts said today.

“Mercenarism must be addressed by tackling the root causes and drivers of recruitment,” said the Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries.

In their report to the 54th session of the Human Rights Council, the experts noted that the growing use of mercenaries and mercenary-related actors, as well as private military and security companies in conflict and post-conflict contexts, increased violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. “Existing inequalities, including extreme poverty, discrimination and lack of employment opportunities and access to education and health care, are at the root of this phenomenon,” they said.

The experts stressed that current conflicts are increasingly characterised by a whole range of different arms actors, including military and police forces, paramilitary and autonomous groups, private military security companies and mercenaries. Different environments allow mercenaries and related actors to continue to be recruited in and from different conflict situations, creating instability and undermining efforts for sustainable peace.

“The recruitment of mercenaries and mercenary-related actors often involves predatory practices, targeting in particular men, often young, from low socio-economic and conflict-affected backgrounds, who see it as a way to improve their livelihoods,” the Working Group said.

The experts noted that mercenaries recruited in a predatory manner often suffer from multiple aspects of victimisation and may belong to vulnerable groups in their own countries or in the countries in which they find themselves at the time of recruitment.

“Private military and security contractors reportedly conduct recruitment campaigns in prisons and convince detainees to enlist as mercenaries to participate in armed conflicts,” they said.

Recruiters use pressure tactics, often suggesting that enlistment is not voluntary, with individuals being offered amnesty or pardon for their prison sentences and compensation for them and their families, the experts said.

They noted that the practice of predatory recruitment has a damaging impact on the families of recruits and their communities.

“We must focus on the recruitment process of mercenaries and mercenary-related actors, including predatory recruitment,” the experts said. They called for a comprehensive approach to combating mercenarism and related activities, in line with the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries.


The experts: Ravindran Daniel (Chair-Rapporteur), Carlos Salazar Couto, Chris Kwaja, Sorcha MacLeodThe Working Group on the use of mercenariesas a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the rights of peoples to self-determination

For additional information and media requests please contact: Sofia Palli ([email protected]) or [email protected],

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) and Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected]).

Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter: @UN_SPExperts

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