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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Opening remarks by Mr. Ibrahim Salama, Chief, Human Rights Treaties Branch, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR, at the sixth session of the intergovernmental working group to consider the possibility of elaborating an international regulatory framework on the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies

22 May 2017

22 May 2017

Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure and an honour to welcome you all today at the opening of the sixth session of the intergovernmental working group on private military and security companies.

At the outset, I would like to congratulate the delegations for their continuous engagement and amount of work which has been undertaken on this matter throughout the past six years. I am certain that the discussions during the last five sessions have contributed to a greater understanding of the range of complex issues associated with the activities of private military and security companies (PMSCs). The vast amount of information contained in the reports from the previous sessions as well as discussions taking place during this session will certainly help to develop and shape the recommendations that are expected to be prepared at the end of this session in order to be submitted to the Human Rights Council for its 36th session in September 2017.

I have been briefed by my colleagues about the efforts made by the Chair-Rapporteur in order to build consensus among the delegations around some outstanding issues arising from the previous sessions, including in meetings of the regional coordinators and by holding informal working consultations that were open to all Member States last Monday. Following these consultations, a draft discussion document containing some key elements for an international regulatory framework on the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies has been shared with all Member States in order to facilitate the discussion during this session of the intergovernmental working group. In this regard, I also believe that the comparative table containing a compilation of recommendations from the five sessions of the IGWG since 2011, prepared by the Secretariat, may provide useful guidance to delegations and may assist them in effectively participating in this session.

What is essential from a human rights perspective is to ensure that there is no gap in protection from human rights abuses; whenever such abuses have been committed by PMSCs, victims must have access to an effective remedy. I would like to emphasize that accountability and justice related to the abuses committed by PMSCs requires robust monitoring and reporting, immediate cessations of abuses and establishing accountability. I would also like to stress that in cases where human rights abuses have occurred, States have the obligation not to leave them unpunished.

Furthermore, the use of PMSCs, including in complex situations, poses serious concerns over the lack of accountability in abuses of human rights by PMSCs. In this context, I would like to refer to the important activities carried out in the past years by OHCHR, various Special Procedures and the Human Rights Council, which are well summarized in the report of the fifth session of this IGWG in December 2016. Let me just highlight the panel discussion organized last month by the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, which focused on the human rights impact of private security companies in places of deprivation of liberty. Current trends in various countries indicate that States may even increase the practice of contracting private security companies to operate prisons and detention facilities, which may pose serious human rights risks.

Our efforts, as also noted by the Chair-Rapporteur in her concluding remarks during the fifth session, should focus on contributing to the mainstreaming of human rights, including in the areas of PMSCs and possible human rights abuses. The provisional programme of work, which will be adopted by this intergovernmental working group shortly, provides the delegations with the opportunity to reflect on the work of the IGWG during its sessions in the past, mainly looking into the areas where the IGWG has reached consensus, reflections on challenges, and you will discuss the way forward with the view to agreeing on conclusions and recommendations to the Human Rights Council. 

I would also like to welcome the representatives of Member States, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations as well as academia. I trust that the discussions during this session will continue to enhance the human rights perspective on the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of PMSCs. I thank you all for your constructive engagement in this process and wish you a fruitful session.