The United Nations, tasked with maintaining world peace and security, has expressed non-binding principles, recommendations, and guidelines aimed at achieving its mission. While most of these pronouncements do not directly address PMSC activity, many are nonetheless relevant as they pertain to law enforcement, criminal justice and human rights standards.
UN Conventions that are binding on signatory states and have achieved near-universal acceptance appear in the section Generally Applicable International Law.
United Nations Documents
The non-binding Standard Minimum Rules were adopted by the First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders and approved by the ECOSOC by resolution in 1957 and again in 1977. The Standards set out what is generally accepted as being good principle and practice in the treatment of prisoners, whether untried or convicted, including prisoners subject to "security measures" or other forms of detention.
The UN Global Compact is a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor,environment and anti-corruption. This document serves as a guide to businesses in dealing with security forces in high-risk locations, particularly how to avoid complicity in human rights abuses. It also discusses employing private security companies as an alternative.
This interpretive guide is designed to support the process of the effective implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights for implementing the Protect, Respect and Remedy framework. The guide focuses on the Guiding Principles that address the corporate responsibility to respect human rights. It was developed in full collaboration with the former Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.
Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979, the Code of Conduct sets forth basic standards for law enforcement officials, which includes persons who provide security or exercise police powers. In addition to other standards, it states that such officials must only use force in exception circumstances; must uphold the human rights of all persons; and must refrain from criminal acts such as torture and corrupt practices.
This document was developed by the Office of the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (DSRSG) of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) with the advice of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and in consultation and collaboration with a wide range of humanitarian actors working on Iraq. It was created to address civilian-military relations for humanitarian action in the context of Iraq, circa 2004. It focuses on a number of areas and topics that might require coordination between humanitarian, military and other security actors, presenting possible approaches and necessary considerations.
Approved in 2003 by the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, the Norms are a restatement of international legal principles applicable to businesses with regard to international human rights, humanitarian law, labor law, and more. It was controversial and not-well-received because it essentially sought to impose on companies the international law obligations of states.
Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1988, the Body of Principles contains detailed provisions for the protection of persons held in any type of detention and reaffirms that no one in any sort of detention or imprisonment shall be subjected to torture or any form of violence or threats.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published these guidelines to assist humanitarian professionals working in volatile and insecure environments. It discusses a variety of practices humanitarian workers have used in their efforts to maintain an operational presence and continue their activities, including the use of armed guards by humanitarian organizations. It recommends seeking area security rather than armed escorts. Such security involves 'clearing' roads, maintaining a presence in the area (but not being distinctly visible or accompanying the convoy or vehicles), and providing flyovers.
The Handbook seeks to provide practitioners, including government officials, police, municipal planners and members of civic groups, with a basic conceptual grounding in democratic policing. Recommendations to governments include establishing effective regulation of private security firms, including ensuring that private firms do not employ criminals; creating rules that specify the type of armaments carried by private security guards and the type of training received; maintaining a registry of private security firms and their employees; etc. There is a note about the regulation of private security firms in the UAE.
Adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, in Havana, Cuba in 1990, the Basic Principles set standards regarding the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials, and attempt to limit the ability of law enforcement officials to carry and use firearms. They function as the global standards for police agencies worldwide, although they are not enforceable in law.
Recommended by the UN Economic and Social Council in 1989, this document defines principles concerning the arbitrary deprivation of life and sets up measures to be taken by government to prevent, investigate and take legal proceedings in relation to extra-legal, arbitrary, and summary executions.
The guidelines, developed by the United Nations and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee on civil-military relationship in complex emergencies, aims to assist humanitarian and military professionals to deal with civil-military issues in a manner that respects and appropriately reflects humanitarian concerns at the strategic, operational and tactical levels in accordance with international law, standards and principles. Issues addressed include: who should provide armed escorts to humanitarian convoys; when and under what circumstances should these escorts be employed; and in what ways can the unnecessary militarization of aid be prevented.
The document was produced by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on the request by the Deputy Secretary-General's Task Force on security policy, and was elaborated in collaboration with Inter-Agency Standing Committee member bodies, and reviewers from a number of organizations. It contains non-binding guidelines regarding the use of military and armed escorts for humanitarian convoys. Part I reviews the broader policy context, and Part II consists of two sets of guidelines: one on when escorts might be used, the other on how they might be used.
Launched in 2000, the UN Global Compact is a both a policy platform and a practical framework for companies that are committed to responsible business practices. It seeks to align business operations with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption. It is the worlds largest voluntary corporate citizenship initiative, with thousands signatories based in more than 130 countries.
These Guidelines, created by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, were intended to provide a practical and overarching framework to ensure a more coordinated and transparent interaction between humanitarian actors and the military (including, the Multi-National Forces in Iraq (MNF-I), security and non-state armed actors) on issues of mutual concern.