International Convention Against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries

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On October 20th, 2001, the Special Rapporteur on the use of mercenaries of the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations, Enrique Bernales Ballestros, announced the entry into force of the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries. [1]

The Convention was adopted by the General Assembly on December 4th, 1989 and remained in limbo waiting for ratification by a necessary twenty-two States to become international law. As of 1998, only sixteen States had ratified it leading Ballestros to warn this delay was "facilitating the growing new phenomenom of mercenarism", and that mercenary activities "have been involved in, inter alia, terrorist attacks and illicit trafficking."[2]

Concerning the right of people to self-determination on October 28th, 1998, the Third Committee of the General Assembly noted:

  • Alarm and concern concerning the danger activities of mercenaries constitute to peace and security in developing countries, particularly in Africa and in small States
  • Deep concern "about the loss of life, the substantial damage to property and the negative effects on the polity and economies of affected countries resulting from mercenary aggression and criminal activities"
  • The recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenaries are causes for grave concern to all States
  • That, "notwithstanding the way in which mercenaries or mercenary-related activities are used or the form they take to acquire some semblance of legitimacy, they are a threat to peace, security and the self-determination of people and an obstacle to the enjoyment of human rights by peoples"[3]

The Convention defines a mercenary as any person who:

  • Is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in armed conflict
  • Is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar rank and functions in the armed forces of that party
  • Is neither a national of a party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a party to the conflict
  • Is not a member of armed forces of a party to the conflict
  • Has not been sent by a State which is not a party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces

States party to the convention affirm "that the recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenaries should be considered as offences of grave concern to all States and that any person committing any of these-offences should be either prosecuted or extradited"; and

Are concerned "at new unlawful international activities linking drug traffickers and mercenaries in the perpetration of violent actions which undermine the constitutional order of the States"; and

Are convinced that the adoption of this convention "would contribute to the eradication of these nefarious activities and thereby to observance of the purposes and the principles enshrined in the Charter"; and

Are "convinced of the necessity to develop and enhance international co-operation among the States for the prevention, prosecution and punishment of such offenders."[4]

The twenty-two States that have completed the constitutional procedures that bind them to the Convention are: Azerbaijan, Barbados, Belarus, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Georgia, Italy, Libya, Maldives, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Suriname, Togo, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uruguay and Uzbekistan.

The nine other States that have signed but not ratified it are: Angola, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Germany, Morocco, Nigeria, Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia. The United States has not signed.

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