In March 2022, The UK Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee launched an inquiry into use of proxy Private Military Companies (PMCs), including the Wagner Group. The inquiry asked what is currently known about ‘proxy’ private military companies, in particular the Wagner Group. It explored international law in this area, and asked what more can be done to identify, track and sanction members of private military companies.

ICoCA’s formal written submission is available on this web-page.

Recognising differing schools of thought

The submission acknowledges that different schools of thought exist on the regulation of private non-state actors operating in conflict and high-risk environment. These are as follows:

  1. One sees international law as it stands as ill-equipped to regulate the conduct of these actors, and that a new international convention and treaty mechanism is urgently needed.
  2. Another, as reflected in the 2008 Montreaux Document on pertinent legal obligations and good practices for States related to operations of private military and security companies during armed conflict, is that existing international instruements provide a comprehensive legal framework from which to work.

Prioritizing existing legal obligations

There is a strong case to be made for prioritization of effective implemention of existing legal obligations.  This requires the development of national regulatory frameworks, the strengthening of oversight and transparency and ensuring accountability for any human rights abuses or humanitarian law violations committed by non-State actors.

Recommendations include the following:

  • There is a need to establish clear understanding and delineation bewteeen the various non-state private actors operating in high-risk, complex and conflict environments, including in regulatory and licensing regimes.
  • The United Kingdom should continue to support national and international efforts to improve accountability and the provision of remedies to address violations of international humanitarian law ans abuses of human rights by private security companies, this includes providing increased support to civil society organisations to build their capacity to collect, document and report on the activities of private military and security companies operating in high risk and conflict environments.
  • The UK Government should engage more robustly with humanitarian agencies and relevant implementing partners operating in high risk and conflict environments on issues related to the use and interaction with private security companies.
  • The UK Government should continue to invest and actively shape existing initiatives such as the Montreux Document and ICoCA, assuming a critical role internationally in promoting the regulation and oversight of private security companies so that they are operating in accordance with international law.