Montreux +5: Background

montreux_picto-0996In light of the upcoming March 6 Founders’ event, Montreux Plus Five: Assessing the current status of the development and implementation of international standards for the Private Military and Security Industry (insert link to announcement), some background information about the Montreux initiative may be of use to those considering attending. The Montreux Document on pertinent international legal obligations and good practices for States related to operations of private military and security companies during armed conflict, or simply the Montreux Document, was signed by 17 states in September 2008 and is currently supported by 43 states and the European Union. It was the result of a joint initiative launched in 2006 by the Swiss government’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that brought together stakeholders from government, civil society, and business to discuss the legal and practical issues raised by private military and security companies (PMSCs).

As the ICRC noted at the time there were growing concerns about the privatization of war. Perceptions that PMSCs operated globally in a legal vacuum were countered by the ICRC and others, who wanted to establish that both companies and states – those states hiring PMSCs (contracting states), those states on whose territories they operate (territorial states), and the states where they are headquartered (home states) – must ensure respect for international law during armed conflict.

The ICRC also expressed concerns that the fundamental distinction at the heart of international humanitarian law, between civilians and combatants, was being blurred, and that national regulatory frameworks were inadequate to ensure that PMSCs comply with international law and are held to account when violations occur.

While the Montreux Document creates no new international legal obligations, it does summarize existing international humanitarian and human rights law as it applies to the activities of PMSCs, and it details a series of good practices meant to assist states in meeting their obligations under international law. Part I of the Montreux Document summarizes applicable international legal obligations of contracting states, territorial states, home states, and all other states. It also addresses issues with regards to the attribution of private conduct to states, the duties of PMSCs and their personnel, and questions of superior responsibility. The good practices for contracting, territorial, and home states in Part II are based on existing practices of states with regards to PMSCs as well as more broadly existing regulations for arms and armed services. Among the practices discussed are determining when services are outsourced, procedures and criteria for selecting, vetting, and authorizing PMSC activities, terms of contracts and authorizations, and monitoring compliance and ensuring accountability.

Since the Montreux Document was mostly directed at states and laid out legal obligations and good practices during situations of armed conflict, even before its completion consensus was emerging among stakeholders that had participated in the Montreux process that a parallel initiative was needed directed at PMSCs and detailing their human rights and humanitarian law responsibilities in all of their operations. This was the origin of theInternational Code of Conduct (ICOC) for Private Security Service Providers a voluntary multi-stakeholder initiative convened by the Swiss government and facilitated by DCAF (formerly known as the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces). The ICOC lays out principles and standards for PMSCs based on international human rights and humanitarian law and seeks to improve accountability of the industry through the creation of an independent governance and oversight mechanism.

Since the completion of the Montreux Document, DCAF has been holding a series of regional workshops to raise awareness and identify regionally specific issues associated with the use and regulation of PMSCs. With 2013 marking the fifth anniversary of the Montreux Document, the Swiss government and DCAF will be convening an event in Geneva to discuss states’ efforts to meet their Montreux commitments. The Swiss government has proven itself a leader in this respect, and recently examined its national legal and regulatory framework to ensure conformance with Montreux. Details about the anniversary event have not yet been provided, but IHRIB will share more information with you on these pages as they are released.

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