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Call for inputs: report on Maritime Security

15 April 2022
Issued by
Working Group on the use of mercenaries
To inform the Working Group's annual thematic report to be presented to UN General Assembly 77th session 2022


The Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the rights of peoples to self-determination is mandated by the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC/42/9) to monitor the use of mercenaries, mercenary related-activities, and the activities of private military and security companies (PMSCs).

Twice a year, the Working Group on the use of mercenaries issues calls for inputs to inform its thematic studies to be presented at the Human Rights Council in its September session and at the UN General Assembly in October. The Working Group is dedicating its next thematic report to the UNGA to maritime security.

Objectives of the report

The maritime security sector has developed in response to specific threats including interstate warfare or militarized disputes, piracy, robbery and terrorism, in particular geographical hot spots, including the Western Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Guinea, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, South China Sea, among others.

Maritime security has become a main focus of concern among States and other international actors, and the reliance of private contractors such as private military or security companies (PMSC) has increased over time.  PMSC operating at sea are mostly hired by private actors to protect vessels, commercial shipping, offshore platforms, ports and maritime infrastructure among others. While this shift carries the potential for more secure maritime transit, it may also come at a cost to human rights, including the disproportionate use of force, violations to rights to life, liberty, and due process guarantees.

Furthermore, the hybridization of maritime security models, the absence of effective monitoring and oversight mechanisms and regulation gaps have contributed to greater difficulty in ensuring accountability for violations committed by PMSC and mercenary-related actors in the maritime sector.

The Working Group is therefore particularly keen to receive inputs around key relevant areas regarding the operation of mercenaries, mercenary-related actors and PMSC and in the maritime context focusing on the main challenges identified in relation to the existing legal frameworks, the human rights and humanitarian law violations perpetrated in the maritime context, and the challenges faced in ensuring access to justice and an effective remedy to victims.

Scope of study and key questions

The Working Group welcomes submissions from States, civil society organizations, academics, international and inter-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, private companies, individuals, and any other concerned actors.

The Working Group welcomes any information deemed pertinent to the topic, and is particularly interested in the issues mentioned below. In addressing the questions, please provide to the extent available, examples, illustrations of good or bad practices, and recommendations that you consider important in the context of this questionnaire, as well as any analysis on future developments in this area.

Trends and developments in the maritime sector and applicable framework:

1. What are the existing security threats identified in the maritime context and what are the responses in terms of protection of vessels, commercial shipping, offshore platforms, ports and maritime infrastructure among others?

2. What other contexts have been identified (e.g. maritime warfare, border protection and control, migration, human trafficking) and what are the geographical hotspots of concern?

3. What are the drivers of use of private security contractors in the maritime context and the role and activities of PMSC at sea?

4. What differences can be observed in the nature of the maritime security operations of PMSC compared to land-based operations?

5. Please provide any information on the use of the maritime sphere for mercenary, and mercenary-related activities such as transfer of weapons and personnel, and the challenges that arise from such activities

Regulatory framework and legal challenges:

6. In the context of regulating activities of mercenaries, mercenary related actors, and PMSC in the maritime context; what are the applicable legal frameworks? what are the existing legal gaps and the challenges of overlapping jurisdictions?

7. What other challenges arise related to monitoring the activities of mercenaries, mercenary-related actors and PMSC in maritime contexts?

8. Please provide information on the role, responsibility and challenges encountered by home, flag, and coastal states in relation to these activities.

Human rights and humanitarian law impacts and implication of the use of PMSC and related actors in maritime context

9. Please describe how the activities of mercenaries and mercenary related actors and the development and use of PMSC in the maritime context can cause and contribute to human rights and humanitarian law abuses and violations (including for instance increased violence at sea and proliferation of weapons, disproportionate use of force, violations to rights to life, liberty, fair trial, and freedom from torture among others)

10- Please describe the main human rights violations prevalent at sea (such as violence against seafarers, trafficking, slavery, labour /child rights violations in fisheries, obligation to rescue at sea) and the role of PMSC at sea in the context and in response to these violations.

Accountability and Oversight mechanisms

11. What are the main challenges in terms of setting rules on the use of force and weapons, and deprivation of liberty at sea by PMSC and their personnel and what are the existing policies to ensure human rights protection, in the context of detention, transfer and prosecution of suspected criminals at sea?

12. What are the main challenges related to the legal oversight, attribution of responsibility and accountability for the human rights violations at sea by mercenaries, mercenary related actors and PMSC?

13. Please provide any information on existing national and/or global policies, good practices and measures in place to ensure that victims of violations at sea have access to justice and an effective remedy.

14. What recommendations should be made towards an effective regulation of maritime PMSC and good practices in relation to cooperation amongst different actors in furtherance of maritime security? What role do regional and international organizations, multi-stakeholder initiatives, civil society, and other actors play in that?

How to send your written submission to the Working Group?  

Please send your submissions in English, French or Spanish in attachment to an email to and kindly indicate if you would like your submission to be published on the website of the Working Group or to be treated as confidential.

The deadline for submissions is 15 April 2022.

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