The UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries [official website] on Monday urged [press release] governments to implement a binding international agreement to regulate the activities of private military and security companies (PMSCs). The working group found that current national legislation insufficiently addresses PMSC activities, due to inadequacies in registration and licensing of these companies and the lack of effective mechanisms and remedies for human rights violations. "Providing security is a fundamental human right and a fundamental responsibility of the state," Independent expert and current chair of the working group Anton Katz stated. "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." The challenges are worsened by the transnational nature of PMSCs, which makes ensuring accountability for human rights violations difficult. Thus the working group is calling for states to "recognize the need for an international binding instrument that will complement existing mechanisms in regulating PMSCs." A number of states and corporate actors have established self-regulatory initiatives, including the Monteaux Document [text, PDF] and the International Code of Conduct [text, PDF], to try to address the challenges posed by PMSCs. However, these initiatives are not legally binding and fail to provide adequate solutions.
In February, the working group for the use of mercenaries urged [JURIST report] the government of Honduras to increase its oversight of the 706 registered and numerous unregistered private security companies operating in the country. During the five-day mission to the country, the working group received consistent information that many private security guards allegedly committed human rights violations [UN News Centre report] including killings, disappearances, forced evictions and sexual violence. Last year, US private security contractor Blackwater [JURIST news archive], now known as Academi [corporate website], agreed to settle [JURIST report] several federal criminal charges dealing with export and firearm violations. Earlier that year, the company reached a confidential settlement agreement with survivors and families of victims in a 2007 shooting incident [JURIST reports] in the Nisour Square area of Baghdad that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead. Two ex-Blackwater contractors were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced [JURIST reports] to two-and-a-half years in prison last year for their role in the shooting deaths of two Afghan nationals and the wounding of a third. Blackwater ceased operations in Baghdad [JURIST report] in May 2009 when its security contracts expired and were not renewed.