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Call for inputs: report on victims of mercenaries, mercenary related actors, and private military and security companies.

15 March 2022
Issued by:
Working Group on the use of mercenaries
To inform the Working Group's annual thematic report to be presented to the Human Rights Council 51st session


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 General Assembly in October. The Working Group is dedicating its next thematic report for the HRC to the situation of victims of mercenaries, mercenary-related actors, and private military and security companies (PMSC).

Objectives of the report:

Human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law perpetrated by mercenaries, mercenary related actors, and private military and security companies occur in peacetime, conflict, and post-conflict situations. Accountability is rare, with victims encountering obstacles to accessing effective remedies, resulting in near total impunity for violations.

Major obstacles to accountability and remedy include:

  • the secrecy and opacity surrounding mercenary, mercenary-related, and PMSC activities, and lack of transparency and access to information;
  • complex business and corporate structures and related issues around jurisdiction;
  • regulatory gaps in national legislation, including in relation to penal and civil sanctions for violations committed by these actors, in particular the lack of monitoring bodies and accountability mechanisms pose a threat to a victim’s right to an effective remedy;
  • regulatory gaps at the international level, and failure to adhere to international obligations.

States are required to take steps to prevent human rights abuses, including by private actors such as mercenaries, mercenary-related actors, and private military and security companies. They have obligations to ensure that all perpetrators are investigated, prosecuted and sanctioned for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses and that effective remedies are accessible to the victims. Adequate regulation, monitoring and enforcement are necessary considering the prevalent lack of accountability for human rights violations and abuses by mercenaries, mercenary-related actors, and PMSC.

The victims of human rights abuses and violations perpetrated by mercenaries, mercenary-related actors, and PMSC should be provided with the necessary protection, particularly those belonging to groups in vulnerable situations who face additional barriers in obtaining access to justice. Such groups include, inter alia:

  • Women and girls 
  • Children
  • Racialized persons, members of minorities and ethnic groups 
  • Persons with disabilities
  • Persons with low socioeconomic status 
  • Indigenous peoples 
  • LGBT+ communities 
  • Human rights and environmental defenders, and humanitarian actors 
  • Migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, stateless people and IDPs 
  • People deprived of liberty 
  • Older persons 
  • Legal representatives and judges
  • Journalists  

The Working Group is therefore particularly keen to understand the key intersectional considerations of the impacts of operations of mercenaries, mercenary-related actors, and PMSC in the specific contexts in which they operate, notably their differentiated impacts on these groups.

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.

Access the questionnaire in Français and Español

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.

Groups and victims

1- Please indicate the profile of victims that you have identified that are differently vulnerable to and impacted by the activities and violations committed by mercenaries, mercenary-related actors, and PMSC.

Context of violation

2- Please explain the types of human rights violations identified, the context in which they take place (e.g. extractive industry, detention, migration setting, armed conflict) and the resulting differentiated impacts on the specific groups identified (e.g. indigenous peoples, migrants, woman, children, human rights defenders, victims of trafficking, minorities, elder persons).

Documentation of human rights abuses

3- Please indicate the existing challenges in gathering disaggregated data, with variables on gender, age, profile of victims of human rights abuses by mercenaries, mercenary-related actors, and PMSC that allow accurate documentation and reporting on these cases.

4- Please detail existing initiatives working to promote human rights and denouncing violations committed by mercenaries, mercenary-related actors, and PMSC. Please explain the challenges faced in gaining access to the victims, as well as documenting reporting and denouncing the violations.

Protection of civilians and role of humanitarian actors

5- Please explain the challenges faced by humanitarian actors and peacekeeping missions in providing protection to victims of mercenaries, mercenary related actors and PMSC, how can the protection mandate towards these victims be reinforced, and what synergies can be developed with human rights actors in this context, particularly in light of the Secretary General’s Call to Action for Human Rights1

Access to Justice

6- Please describe the main challenges and barriers in ensuring that victims of mercenaries, mercenary- related actors, and PMSC have access to justice. Please elaborate on any specific and differentiated impact faced by groups in a vulnerable situation in accessing justice and in fulfilling their right to remedy.

7- Kindly provide information on victims’ access to information including on their rights, the legal procedures, legal representation, and existing remedial mechanisms.

8- Please provide information on the measures in place to protect victims, witnesses including whistle-blowers of mercenary, mercenary-related, and PMSC abuses and violations from reprisals, threats or harassment when seeking access to justice. What are the main challenges encountered by victims participating in judicial proceedings against mercenaries, mercenary-related actors, and PMSC?

9- What measures can be taken to support victims and their representatives? What measures can be taken to protect victims and witnesses from intimidation and reprisals?

10- In the country where your organization works, what are the existing national reporting mechanisms, that enable victims, community members and/or civil society organisations to file complaints in case of alleged human rights abuses committed by mercenaries, mercenary related actors and PMSC; what are the existing remedial mechanisms. What measures have been put up by states to recognise the priority of victims' rights to assistance, protection, and to effective remedies?

11-Please detail on relevant jurisprudence, good practices, or landmark cases, concerning mercenaries or PMSC-related abuses or violations that demonstrate effective access to justice and remedies for victims of mercenaries and PMSC or otherwise.

Accountability and remedies

12- What do you consider appropriate approaches to seek accountability for human rights violations committed by PMSC and mercenaries, and mercenary related actors?

13- What efforts can be made to increase and secure the accountability of mercenaries, mercenary related actors and PMSC at a local level, in particular what effective structures and legal frameworks should be put in place to make mercenaries and PMSC accountable for their actions, abuses and violations?

14- In the case or situations where victims cannot seek justice and remedy domestically particularly in the absence of an effective judicial system or when state authorities are accomplice to the abuses how can other jurisdictions (for instance home jurisdictions for PMSC, or universal jurisdiction) take up prosecution or at least offer a forum for complaints, including the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction or other models of international cooperation, including international legal cooperation.

Non- judicial mechanisms

15- Please explain what additional non-judicial measures should be taken towards the realization of the wider rights of victims, including measures to secure truth and justice for victims, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence (including truth commissions, people’s tribunals, formal and informal traditional proceedings, armed group courts) Please provide any examples of such processes where mercenaries, mercenary related actors, and PMSC were the perpetrators.

How and where to submit inputs

Inputs may be sent via e-mail, and must be received by 15 March 2022. When submitting your reply, kindly indicate if you have any objections with regard to your reply being posted on this website.

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