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Seventeen countries agree recommendations to control private military and security companies

17-09-2008 News Release 08/174

Geneva (ICRC) – State experts representing 17 countries have agreed on a new set of recommendations to enhance State control over private military and security companies.

They have also reaffirmed the obligations of States to ensure that these private contractors abide by international humanitarian law.

The document was finalized today by governmental and other experts who had been meeting since 15 September in Montreux, Switzerland, at the invitation of the Swiss government. This was the fourth intergovernmental meeting under the initiative on private military and security companies launched by the Swiss foreign ministry in early 2006. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been associated with the initiative since the beginning.

“The Montreux document will enhance the protection of people affected by armed conflict,” said Philip Spoerri, the ICRC’s director for international law. “The document clearly reaffirms the fact that military and security contractors dispatched to war zones must comply with international law, and that States have a particular responsibility for ensuring compliance,” Mr Spoerri added. “It is now very important that States take concrete measures to prevent violations from occurring and to hold contractors to account for unlawful behaviour”.

The Montreux document, which is not legally binding, outlines for the first time ever detailed and practical measures to help States enhance compliance with international humanitarian law and ensure respect for human rights. The measures are relevant when a State hires a private military/security company, when these companies are operating in its territory, or when a company is based in the territory of a State and provides military and security services abroad.

The recommendations contained in the Montreux document in clude introducing appropriate regulation and licensing regimes to control private military and security companies and enhance their accountability. The document underlines that it is essential to have a staff vetting procedure, to train personnel in humanitarian and human rights law, to draw up standard operating procedures and rules of engagement that comply with the law and to set up internal procedures to discipline personnel who break the law. If serious violations of the law occur, the State concerned has an obligation to prosecute those responsible.

The 17 countries that participated in the initiative are Afghanistan, Angola, Australia, Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Iraq, Poland, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the USA.

The Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies   For further information, please contact:
  Marçal Izard, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 2458 or +41 79 217 3224