The United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries today urged Governments to recognize the need for a legally binding international agreement to regulate the use and activities of private military and security companies (PMSCs) to complement existing regulations.
"Providing security is a fundamental human right and a fundamental responsibility of the State," Anton Katz, who currently chairs the five-member group of independent experts, said in a news release.
"But the ever expanding activities of PMSCs continue to raise a number of challenges, and the outsourcing of security to these companies by States create risks for human rights, hence the need to regulate their activities."
Presenting the group's report to the General Assembly's Third Committee, which examines human rights issues, Mr. Katz stressed that existing national legislation is not sufficient to address the challenges posed by PMSCs.
He cited inadequacies related registering and licensing, and the lack of effective and transparent mechanisms and remedies for human rights violations within existing legislation, adding that these limitations are worsened by the transnational nature of PMSCs and the difficulties in ensuring accountability for any violations that may occur.
He noted that there are self-regulatory initiatives such as the Montreux Document and the International Code of Conduct which have been established by a number of States and corporate actors in the past years to try and address the challenges posed by PMSCs.
"However, these initiatives are not legally binding and cannot be considered as complete solutions for the problems concerning PMSCs," he stressed.
On mercenaries, Mr. Katz said that recent events in several parts of the world demonstrate that mercenaries remain a threat not only to security but also to human rights and the right of peoples to self-determination. "We continue to call on States to cooperate in eliminating this phenomenon," he stated.
Over the past year, the group made two country visits, to Somalia and Honduras. It also launched a national legislation project to look into analysing good practices and possible shortcomings in States' protection of human rights in transnational security-related activities.
It has also embarked on a study on the UN's use of PMSCs which will be the focus of its report to the General Assembly in 2014.
Members of the Working Group are appointed by the Human Rights Council. Their positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.