U.N.: Private Security Contractors Need Oversight

By Matthew Harwood

A United Nations working group yesterday said private security contractors (PSCs), most controversially used in Iraq, lack appropriate oversight and accountability from the nations that hire them.

The Working Group, which presented today its report at the seventh session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, notes that a growing number of such companies in conflict-ridden areas, such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Colombia, are recruiting former military and policemen from developing countries as “security guards.” However, once they engage in low intensity armed conflict or post-conflict situations, they become in fact “militarily armed private soldiers.”

"Militarily armed private soldiers" are essentially a new way of describing mercenaries, who are frequently responsible for human rights abuses, the Working Group points out.

The working group said many private security contractors (PSCs) have been granted immunity by the war-torn countries in which they serve. Left only to the private regulations of their companies, the group felt that contractor immunity can quickly slide into impunity.

Noting that only states possess the right to use force legitimately in the international sphere, the group wants more countries to ratify the International Convention Against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries.

The working group on the use of mercenaries was established in 2005 by the Commission on Human Rights to report how the use of PSCs affected human rights.


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