Any of our business? Human Rights and the UK private sector - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents



  The Foreign and Commonwealth Office launched a Public Consultation on our proposals to promote high standards of the Private Military and Security Company (PMSC) industry internationally on 24 April 2009. The objective of the policy is to promote high standards of conduct by PMSCs internationally, and to reduce the risk that the activities of PMSCs might give rise to human rights or humanitarian law concerns, assist internal repression, or provoke or prolong internal or regional tension.

  The FCO ran a public consultation, which closed on 17 July, on our preferred option, which consists of a three-part package of:

    — working with the UK industry to promote high standards through a code of conduct agreed with and monitored by the Government;

    — using our status as a buyer to contract only those companies that demonstrate that they operate to high standards; and

    — an international approach to promote higher global standards based on key elements of the UK's approach.

  We are now considering the received responses and will publish a summary of those responses within three months of the close of the consultation.

  We welcomed and considered the specific recommendations made by James Cockayne to the JCHR:

    Recommendation 1: The Joint Committee on Human Rights should invite the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to share its views on the compatibility of Her Majesty's Government's proposed policy on the regulation of private military and security companies with the `Protect, Respect, Remedy' policy framework.

    Recommendation 2: The Joint Committee on Human Rights should encourage the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to explore how the `Protect, Respect, Remedy' policy framework could be integrated into its work on private military and security companies from now on.

    Recommendation 4: The Joint Committee on Human Rights should encourage Her Majesty's Government to incorporate the Ruggie policy framework into its efforts to promote an international regulatory framework for private military and security companies.

  The UN Human Rights Council was unanimous in welcoming the policy framework for business and human rights proposed by Professor John Ruggie in his final report under the 2005 mandate. The Human Rights Council extended Prof. Ruggie's mandate in 2008 asking him to "operationalise" the framework in order to provide concrete guidance to States and businesses. We welcome Professor John Ruggie's framework and consider that it is broadly compatible with our own approach on PMSCs. We are considering how far the "Protect, Respect and Remedy"' framework is compatible with the preferred option to improve standards in the PMSC industry in detail. Though we believe that the state does not have a general duty to protect against abuse by non-state actors, as they do not have human rights obligations, we consider that the Respect tenet of Prof. Ruggie's framework may help to encourage responsible corporate citizenship. We are also considering how possible grievance mechanisms, incorporated into a Code of Conduct/International Standard, may contribute to the Remedy tenet of Prof. Ruggie's framework.

  We are currently taking forward an international initiative, in conjunction with other key partners such as the Swiss, the US, Norway and the Extractive Industry, to uphold high standards of the industry through a code of conduct, building on the Montreux process, together with an accountability mechanism/grievance mechanism. Once an international code of conduct is agreed we will encourage a wide range of PMSC exporting and contracting states and the main industries employing PMSCs to sign up to it. We will look at whether Prof. John Ruggie's framework might be introduced into discussions on creating and enforcing these international standards.

    Recommendation 3: The Joint Committee on Human Rights should encourage Her Majesty's Government to clarify how any system for the regulation of UK-based PMSCs will allow for effective investigation and prosecution of apparent criminal conduct, either in the UK or elsewhere.

  There is already legislation penalising grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, as well as torture, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. This applies to acts committed by United Kingdom nationals overseas, ensuring that they can be prosecuted for these acts even if they take place overseas. We are also able to prosecute British citizens for murder with extra territorial jurisdiction.

    Recommendation 5: The Joint Committee on Human Rights should seek clarification by Her Majesty's Government of how any `Code of Conduct' for UK-based private military and security companies will ensure they discharge their responsibility to respect human rights, in particular by requiring a process of ongoing human rights due diligence.

  We will work with the relevant Trade Association to agree a code of conduct to which all members must adhere. Our aim is for the framework to cover ongoing compliance in accepting contracts, incidents and accountability, resource management and responsible behaviour and promote respect for International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and Human Rights Law (HRL).

    Recommendation 6: The Joint Committee should invite the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to clarify how an industry-run Grievance Mechanism for the private military and security industry will ensure respect for the principles of legitimacy, accessibility, predictability, equity, rights-compatibility, transparency and independence outlined in the Ruggie policy framework.

  The Government is currently consulting on its preferred option to uphold high standards of the PMSC industry globally. We are engaged in an initiative to write an international code of conduct and are considering how an effective accountability mechanism will enforce those standards. As part of that process, we are also considering how a grievance process will improve that accountability mechanism. We will look to frame a detailed policy proposal after the close of the consultation and will then be able to provide a comprehensive answer. When we consider the details of this mechanism, we will explore how Professor John Ruggie's principles—as outlined—can be incorporated.

21 August 2009

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Prepared 16 December 2009