Blackwater Sentencing: UN Experts on Mercenaries Call for International Regulation of Private Security

GENEVA – “Justice is served in this case but must be assured globally,” the United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries has said today, reiterating its call for global regulation of private military and security companies (PMSCs). “The outsourcing of security to these firms by States creates risks for human rights, hence the need to regulate their activities,” they said.

The expert body’s call comes after a federal judge in Washington sentenced a former Blackwater Worldwide security guard to life in prison, and three others to 30 years terms for the killing of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians in 2007, in Baghdad’s crowded Nissour Square. A further 17 Iraqi civilians were injured as the private security contractors opened fire.

“We endorse the sentences meted out to the private military actors in this landmark trial,” said Elzbieta Karska, who currently heads the five-strong group of independent human rightsexperts. “PMSCs personnel must always be held accountable for violations committed under international human rights and humanitarian law.”

“However, such examples of accountability are the exception rather than the rule,” Ms. Karska highlighted. “The difficulty in bringing a prosecution in this case shows the need for an international treaty to address the increasingly significant role that private military companies play in transnational conflicts.”

The human rights expert noted that the adoption of a new international legal instrument* within the UN will provide a clear framework to effectively monitor abuses and violations ofhuman rights committed by private military and security companies and provide an independent avenue to compensate victims of such violations.

“The Working Group is continuing to promote dialogue around the drafting of a possibleinternational legally binding instrument, and looks forward to working with stakeholders, including at the Open Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group to consider the possibility of creating an international regulatory framework on the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies,” Ms. Karska said.

The human rights expert stated that the prosecutions of Blackwater contractors signal that human rights violations committed by private military and security companies cannot remain unpunished, and provide a strong deterrent against their repetition.

“There can be no justice without effective accountability and redress mechanisms for victims,” Ms. Karska stressed. “States have a responsibility to ensure that victims and their families have equal and effective access to justice, as well as adequate, effective and prompt reparation for the harm suffered”.

(*) Read the Working Group’s draft of a possible Convention on Private Military and Security Companies.