Oversight Mechanism Will Promote and Advance Private Security Contractors’ Respect for Human Rights

Washington, D.C. – In a significant step that will advance private security contractors’ respect for human rights while operating in complex environments around the globe, a multistakeholder group of governments, private security providers and nongovernmental organizations has approved a charter to oversee compliance with the International Code of Conduct (ICOC). The charter will establish a staffed association to oversee member company compliance with the code and to promote respect for human rights under the code. The charter lays out what is required of companies and how the mechanism will promote and assess compliance and address instances of noncompliance.

The ICoC was adopted in November 2011. Since then, nearly 600 private security providers have signed.

From the earliest days of this process, Human Rights First has played an instrumental role participating in the Montreux Document negotiations and drafting the ICoC. It has also served as a member of the Temporary Steering Committee to make the ICoC’s implementation a reality. The code establishes a mechanism to oversee private security contractors’ use of force, their vetting and training of personnel, and incident reporting. Last week’s agreement on the charter follows a two year process of outreach and engagement that culminated in the final drafting conference held last week in Montreux, Switzerland. The conference included other civil society organizations from across the globe who helped to balance the debate and ensure that the new oversight mechanism reflects the concerns of individuals and communities most affected by private security provider operations.

“This consensus is welcome and an important moment for private security contractors and those of us who work with them to address human rights challenges in the field,” said Human Rights First’s Meg Roggensack, who was part of the most recent negotiations and sits on the ICoC’s Temporary Steering Committee that is charged with carrying out this work. “We fought hard to secure a meaningful and human rights oriented certification of private security provider systems and policies, to establish in-field monitoring of company performance, and to create a way to ensure that victims can access effective remedies when company mechanisms prove inadequate. The bones are in place. Time will tell whether this mechanism will have the political and financial support necessary to translate the charter’s promise into real and lasting change for individuals and communities affected by private security provider operations.”

Though the vast majority of U.S. private contractors do their jobs without incident, problems remain. Within the past decade there have been a series of incidents – notably the killing of unarmed civilians in Nisoor Square, Iraq and detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib – that have brought to light government challenges in establishing effective systems of private security provider accountability and oversight. In response, the Swiss government took a leadership role in responding to this crisis, brokering the Montreux Document that recognizes state responsibilities under international law and leading the creation of the ICoC to address private security provider responsibilities under international law. The Swiss continue to support the work of the ICoC’s Temporary Steering Committee that was established to create a permanent governance and oversight authority.

Human Rights First has released a number of reports documenting serious private security contractor abuses including excessive use of force and cruel treatment of detainees. These are documented in State of Affairs: Three Years After Nisoor Square, which outlines a number of steps the U.S. government should take to increase contractor accountability abroad. Its work to assist in crafting the governance charter for the ICoC for Private Security Providers reflects the organization’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that private companies uphold human rights.


Published on February 25, 2013


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