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 rights experts. “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 of human 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 possible international 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:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Mercenaries/WGMercenaries/Pages/WGMercenariesIndex.aspx
The Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination was established in 2005 by the then Commission on Human Rights. It is composed of five independent experts serving in their personal capacities: Ms. Elzbieta Karska (Chairperson-Rapporteur, Poland), Ms. Patricia Arias (Chile), Mr. Anton Katz (South Africa), Mr. Gabor Rona (United States/Hungary), and Mr. Saeed Mokbil (Yemen). Learn more, log on to:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Mercenaries/WGMercenaries/Pages/WGMercenariesIndex.aspx
The UN human rights experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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