Pajhwok Afghan News, November 6, 2007

'Private security firms involved in mercenary activity'

Countries employing such firms could be liable for human rights violations committed by their personnel

GENEVA: A number of private security companies operating in conflict zones were engaging in new forms of mercenary activity, a United Nations team warned on Tuesday.

In his testimony before a parliamentary commission, crime investigations chief Gen. Alishah Paktiawal said both foreign and local employees of the security agencies were involved in crimes.
He said the companies possessed 11,000 different arms and had 700 offices and branches in the central capital. "Most of the companies don't allow us to monitor their working."
Pajhwok Afghan News, Sep.4, 2007

The group of experts warned the countries employing such firms could be liable for human rights violations committed by their personnel. It noted a significant rise in the number of private security companies operating in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Although heavily armed, the personnel employed by the companies were neither civilians nor combatants, added the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries. They represent a new form of mercenarism, similar to irregular combatants, which itself is an unclear concept.

In a press release issued here, the group said states employing their services might be held responsible for violations of internationally recognised human rights committed by the personnel of such companies.

"This is especially true if the companies are empowered to exercise elements of governmental authority or are acting under governmental direction or control," the UN experts observed.

Since it was difficult for war-torn countries to regulate private security companies, the group said, it believed a significant part of that responsibility fell on states from where the companies exported services. The exporting states should avoid granting immunity to the companies and their personnel, they said.

The group said it was concerned that only 30 states have ratified the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, as well as by the lack of regulation at the regional and national levels regarding private military and security companies which operate without oversight and accountability.

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