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U.S. Statements at HRC: Working Group on Mercenaries / “International Solidarity”
September 14, 2011

UN Human Rights Council – 18th Session

Geneva – September 13, 2011


Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the independent expert on international solidarity and the working group on mercenaries


Statement of the Delegation of the United States of America

Delivered by Margaret Wang


Independent expert on human rights and international solidarity

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


The United States continues to believe that the issue of International Solidarity is not an issue that this Council should address. There are many other items that are more relevant to this Council, and this mandate diverts attention and resources away from those issues.  This will be the fourth Session in a row that this topic is being addressed at the Council; these repeated initiatives run counter to the efforts to regularize and rationalize the work of the Council.  The United States believes that there are more appropriate and effective ways to utilize this Council’s time and resources.



Report of 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


Thank you, Madame Chairperson.


The United States also notes the report of the Working Group on mercenaries.  The United States was pleased to participate in the inter-governmental working group that took place in May, and we are mindful of the wide range of views that were expressed there.


Before addressing the broader challenge, we want to respond to some of the specific comments in the report on U.S. contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq.  The Working Group recommends, with respect to American private security contractors in Afghanistan, that the U.S. Government should establish a more vigorous vetting procedure before awarding contracts.  Reporting on its June 2011 visit to Iraq, the Working Group notes that the number of incidents involving private military and security companies decreased in recent years, but also cites concerns regarding accountability for misconduct.


The United States Government fully recognizes the importance of proper oversight and accountability for contractors operating in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.  To that end, the United States has strengthened contract oversight mechanisms in recent years, and the U.S. Congress – with support from the Obama Administration – is currently considering enactment of further legislation to expand and clarify extra-territorial jurisdiction for government contractors.  Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan are subject to the jurisdiction of the host government, and although the Working Group’s report questions to what extent certain contractors retain immunity from Iraqi law, we have advised U.S. Government contractors in Iraq of our understanding that the 2009 suspension of immunity applied to the contractors of all U.S. Government agencies.


In August of this year, the U.S. Government continued strengthening our regulatory framework for contractor operations, by publishing federal regulations establishing policy, assigning responsibilities and providing procedures for the regulation of the selection, accountability, training, equipping, and conduct of personnel performing private security functions under a covered contract.  The United States will continue to refine and develop its regulation and oversight to ensure that our use of these services maintains the highest standards and remains consistent with our international obligations and national values.


As we have expressed previously, we believe that the most effective way to address the issues that have been raised is through better implementation of existing law – both national and international – and through robust collaborative efforts that bring together industry, civil society and governments to work directly on raising standards, such as the Montreux Document and the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers.    A convention would not address the underlying practical challenges that such collaborative efforts can more easily address, and could lead to unintended consequences, such as outlawing many important activities such as training UN peacekeepers and helping countries professionalize their military.


We also note that at the May inter-governmental working group, several delegations expressed the view that the inter-governmental working group could proceed by doing something other than elaborating a convention.


  • What concrete approach, outside of negotiating a convention, does the Working Group feel would be the best use of the inter-governmental working group’s time as we move forward?


Thank you, Madame Chairperson.