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United Nations: Mercenaries Not Regulated

(Apr. 2, 2008) A United Nations working group on the use of mercenaries reported to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 10, 2008. According to the report, the number of private security and military companies, which operate domestically and internationally, is increasing and they are without proper oversight and accountability. These private enterprises are operating in countries with ongoing conflicts, such as Afghanistan, Colombia, and Iraq. They recruit former policemen and soldiers from developing countries. Although they may refer to their employees as "security guards," the report characterizes them as "militarily armed private soldiers" or mercenaries. The working group expressed concern that these mercenaries are responsible for serious human rights abuses. The working group, international in nature, was established in 2005 and consists of José Luis Gómez del Prado of Spain (Chairperson-Rapporteur), Najat al-Hajjaji of Libya, Amada Benavides de Pérez of Colombia, Alexander Nikitin of Russia, and Shaista Shameem of Fiji. (Private Security Companies Lack Oversight and Regulation – UN Working Group, UNNEWS, Mar. 10, 2008, available from [email protected].)

Countries experiencing internal conflict may lack the capacity to control and regulate the private security companies and in some cases have passed national legislation granting immunity. The security guards then are accountable only to their corporate bosses, and the immunity can become impunity, according to the five-member working group. The report calls for wider ratification of the Convention Against the Recruitment, Use, Financing, and Training of Mercenaries. (Id.; Convention text was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly Resolution A/RES/44/34, Dec. 4, 1989, available at http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/44/a44r034.htm (UN Web site).) According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, there are 30 parties to the agreement. (International Humanitarian Law – Treaties and Documents, http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/INTRO/530?OpenDocument (last visited Mar. 13, 2008).)