Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence



Memorandum submitted by International Alert


  1.  International Alert, a non-governmental organization committed to the just and peaceful transformation of violent conflicts, welcomes the Foreign Affairs Committee's invitation to submit comments on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Report for 2001. International Alert acknowledges the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's work outlined in the report and achievements throughout the year that have contributed to international peace and security.


  2.  International Alert would, however, like to express concern that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has failed to publish its long-awaited Green Paper on Mercenaries. The Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, made a commitment in April 1999 (in response to the "arms to Africa" affair in which Sandline International, a British private military company, was involved in shipping arms to Sierra Leone in contravention of the UN arms embargo) that the Green Paper would be published by November 2000. However, the Green Paper is still to be published and there is no reference to progress on it in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's report for 2001.

  3.  The Foreign Affairs Committee has itself expressed concern over the delay in the Green Paper in their Progress Report (Follow-up to the Second Report, session 1998-99, on Sierra Leone) stating: "We look forward to sight of the Government's proposed Green Paper on Mercenaries but regret that the scheduled publication date of November 2000 has been missed."

  4.  The UN has repeatedly condemned mercenary activities. The Special Rapporteur on the use of mercenaries, Sr. Enrique Bernales Ballesteros, has raised concern about the impact of mercenary and private military company activities on human rights, peace and stability in his report to the UN Commission on Human Rights and the General Assembly. He has, furthermore, urged Member States to adopt national legislation regulating their activities. An expert meeting organized by the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights in January 2001 reach similar conclusions. The failure of the UK Government to publish the Green Paper on Mercenaries was criticized by the Special Rapporteur (Financial Times, 18th April 2001) As "a serious and deplorable backward step by the British government." He also expressed concern that this might send a very negative signal to other European countries, who have been waiting for the British to introduce regulations before making any similar move themselves.

  5.  Mercenary and private military companies continue to be a source of instability in a number of ongoing conflicts. The government (Hansard written answers, 156152) has said that it has had contacts with 15-20 companies in the UK.

  6.  The reason given by the Government (Hansard written answers, 145583) for the delay is that this is a new and complex issue that requires careful consultation, and there are difficulties in defining mercenary activities. The Green Paper is, however, only a consultation document. It has been suggested (Financial Times, 18th April 2001) that the Government is reluctant to raise this vulnerable question in view of the controversy it may reignite with the upcoming general election.

  7.  International Alert believes it is an imperative that the Green Paper on Mercenaries be published as soon as possible, and that a statement be made as to when this will be. This will allow for urgent public debate about the pressing issue and should lead to the introduction of comprehensive legislation.

April 2001

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