HING Vandanet, RADU Mares


Businesses require support from security forces – private security companies, police, even the military – in order to conduct their operations safely. Indeed, they sometimes operate in unstable environments, sometimes even in volatile environments and war zones. It is part of their human rights responsibility to ensure the safety of their employees (chapter 20). At the same time, hiring security forces has to be done responsibly to avoid situations where innocent citizens are brutalized by security forces when they merely seek to exercise their human rights of freedom of association, expression and assembly (chapter 19) and have legitimate grievances about environmental degradation (chapter 29), land dispossession (chapter 25) or working conditions (chapters 17-21). During the last 20 years, a number of multistakeholder initiatives (chapter 5) have emerged to offer guidance on how to provide security without infringing on human rights. Specific provisions have been developed for public or private security forces, at different stages of engagement – from screening and selection to training on rules of engagement to reporting abuses and cooperating with judicial mechanisms (chapter 6) – in times of peace or armed conflict. Most abuses tend to occur in the extractive industries (mining, oil and gas) and agriculture sector (including forestry) given that such industries cannot easily relocate. Businesses are expected to perform enhanced human rights due diligence in such settings of high risk (chapters 7-14) and the responsibility of ‘home states’ to advise and regulate (chapter 4) companies operating in conflict areas is clearly recognized in the UNGPs (chapter 2). There have been legal cases in home state courts (chapter 6) where transnational companies have had to answer to abuses committed by security forces going as far as torture, killings, rape and other abuses reaching the level of violations of customary international law, war crimes and crimes against humanity (chapter 1). Given the seriousness of such abuses, even leading companies are quite secretive about their performance in the area of security, likely because full transparency could easily trigger legal liability (chapter 6). Such companies however recognize the importance of conflict analysis and human rights due diligence as a way to identify root causes of conflict and take proactive measures in partnership with stakeholders (chapter 5).

In Cambodia, most common instances of business-related abuse are related to land. These are areas of potential economic growth or investment involving rich investors, politicians, local authorities and/or armed forces or private security. There have been reports about the security forces using violence against people or workers. Peace, development, and human rights are three key dimensions of welfare and prosperity and the question often posed is which one should come first. Peace is a popular political message in Cambodia. Some would argue that if there is no peace there is no development or human rights either. However, others would argue that violations of human rights are the root cause of instability and insecurity; and that such violations therefore jeopardize peace and inhibit development.

Main Aspects

  • Public and private security
  • Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs)
  • Private Security Companies (PSCs)
  • Obligations of states
  • Responsibilities of corporations
  • Use and control of weapons and equipment
  • Screening of personnel
  • Training
  • Risk assessments
  • Complaint mechanisms
  • Certification standards
  • Business reports


Bernard, Business, Violence and Conflict[1]

Businesses can have both positive and negative effects on communities in conflict-affected or high-risk areas. They may contribute to the violence, but they may also be the victims of it, or even assist in the relief and prevention of further violence. This issue of the Review examines the relationship between business and conflict, the rules that regulate companies’ activities in the context of conflict, efforts to highlight the rights and responsibilities of companies, States and civil society in this field and the options open to humanitarian agencies that want to enter into dialogue with companies.

            One particular type of business enterprise which is, by definition, more exposed to armed conflict and other situations of violence is private military and security companies (PMSCs). Following the recent era in which mercenaries hired out their services as soldiers of fortune in the African conflicts, the wars in the Balkans, in Iraq, and in Afghanistan have seen the emergence of new structures providing military and security-type services: PMSCs. In the face of growing demand, there has been an increase in the number of PMSCs, which have extended their range of services to include security, logistics, maintaining and operating military equipment, intelligence, training of police and armed forces, and detention-related activities, to name a few. In fact, one can speak of a veritable private military and security industry that is providing an ever broader range of services, increasingly today in the field of maritime security in response to piracy (delivery of ransom money, negotiations, sea patrols, and so on). This multifaceted and quickly evolving nature of the services provided by PMSCs poses significant challenges to developing a coherent legal framework governing their activities


Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights[2] 

(…) voluntary principles to guide Companies in maintaining the safety and security of their operations within an operating framework that ensures respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. 

Risk Assessment

(…) accurate, effective risk assessments should consider the following factors: 

  • Identification of security risks. Security risks can result from political, economic, civil or social factors. Moreover, certain personnel and assets may be at greater risk than others. Identification of security risks allows a Company to take measures to minimize risk and to assess whether Company actions may heighten risk. 
  • Potential for violence. Depending on the environment, violence can be widespread or limited to particular regions, and it can develop with little or no warning. Civil society, home and host government representatives, and other sources should be consulted to identify risks presented by the potential for violence. Risk assessments should examine patterns of violence in areas of Company operations for educational, predictive, and preventative purposes. 
  • Human rights records. Risk assessments should consider the available human rights records of public security forces, paramilitaries, local and national law enforcement, as well as the reputation of private security. Awareness of past abuses and allegations can help Companies to avoid recurrences as well as to promote accountability. Also, identification of the capability of the above entities to respond to situations of violence in a lawful manner (i.e., consistent with applicable international standards) allows Companies to develop appropriate measures in operating environments. 
  • Rule of law. Risk assessments should consider the local prosecuting authority and judiciary’s capacity to hold accountable those responsible for human rights abuses and for those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law in a manner that respects the rights of the accused. 
  • Conflict analysis. Identification of and understanding the root causes and nature of local conflicts, as well as the level of adherence to human rights and international humanitarian law standards by key actors, can be instructive for the development of strategies for managing relations between the Company, local communities, Company employees and their unions, and host governments. 
  • Equipment transfers. Where Companies provide equipment (including lethal and non-lethal equipment) to public or private security, they should consider the risk of such transfers, any relevant export licensing requirements, and the feasibility of measures to mitigate foreseeable negative consequences, including adequate controls to prevent misappropriation or diversion of equipment which may lead to human rights abuses. In making risk assessments, companies should consider any relevant past incidents involving previous equipment transfers. 

Interactions between companies and public security

Companies should use their influence to promote the following principles with public security: (a) individuals credibly implicated in human rights abuses should not provide security services for Companies; (b) force should be used only when strictly necessary and to an extent proportional to the threat; and (c) the rights of individuals should not be violated while exercising the right to exercise freedom of association and peaceful assembly, the right to engage in collective bargaining, or other related rights of Company employees as recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

  • In cases where physical force is used by public security, such incidents should be reported to the appropriate authorities and to the Company. Where force is used, medical aid should be provided to injured persons, including to offenders. (…)
  • Companies should hold structured meetings with public security on a regular basis to discuss security, human rights and related work-place safety issues. Companies should also consult regularly with other Companies, host and home governments, and civil society to discuss security and human rights. Where Companies operating in the same region have common concerns, they should consider collectively raising those concerns with the host and home governments. (…) 
  • Companies should record and report any credible allegations of human rights abuses by public security in their areas of operation to appropriate host government authorities. Where appropriate, Companies should urge investigation and that action be taken to prevent any recurrence.
  • Companies should actively monitor the status of investigations and press for their proper resolution.

Interactions between companies and private security 

Where host governments are unable or unwilling to provide adequate security to protect a Company’s personnel or assets, it may be necessary to engage private security providers as a complement to public security. In this context, private security may have to coordinate with state forces, (law enforcement, in particular) to carry weapons and to consider the defensive local use of force. (…)

  • Private security should observe the policies of the contracting Company regarding ethical conduct and human rights; the law and professional standards of the country in which they operate; emerging best practices developed by industry, civil society, and governments; and promote the observance of international humanitarian law.(…) 
  • Companies should consult and monitor private security providers to ensure they fulfil their obligation to provide security in a manner consistent with the principles outlined above. Where appropriate, Companies should seek to employ private security providers that are representative of the local population. 

Voluntary Principles Initiative, Governance Rules[3] 

Participation criteria

All Participants are expected to meet the following criteria:

  1. Publicly promote the Voluntary Principles;
  2. Proactively implement or assist in the implementation of the Voluntary Principles;
  3. Attend the Annual Plenary Meeting and, as appropriate and commensurate with resource constraints, other sanctioned extraordinary and in-country meetings;
  4. Communicate publicly, at least annually, on efforts to implement or assist in the implementation of the Voluntary Principles;
  5. Prepare and submit to the Steering Committee, one month prior to the Annual Plenary Meeting, an Annual Report on efforts to implement or assist in the implementation of the Voluntary Principles according to criteria determined by the Participants;
  6. Participate in dialogue with other Voluntary Principles Participants;
  7. Subject to legal, confidentiality, safety, and operational concerns, provide timely responses to reasonable requests for information from other Participants with the aim of facilitating comprehensive understanding of the issues related to implementation or assistance in implementation of the Voluntary Principles.

Corporate pillar reporting guidelines

The Corporate Pillar Reporting Guidelines are divided into four sections:

(A) Commitment to the Voluntary Principles;

(B) Policies, Procedures and Related Activities;

(C) Country Implementation; and

(D) Lessons and Issues.

Sections A-C set forth expected reporting commitments and Section D is optional.

NGO pillar reporting guidelines

The NGO Pillar Reporting Guidelines are divided into five sections:

(A) Commitment to the Voluntary Principles;

(B) Procedures;

(C) Promotion of the Voluntary Principles;

(D) Country Implementation; and

(E) Lessons and Issues.

Sections A-E set forth expected reporting commitments and Section E is optional.

Government pillar reporting guidelines

The Government Pillar Reporting Guidelines are divided into four sections:

(A) Commitment to the Voluntary Principles;

(B) Policies, Procedures and Related Activities;

(C) Implementation; and

(D) Lessons and Issues.

Sections A-C set forth expected reporting commitments and Section D is optional.

Voluntary Principles Initiative, Corporate Pillar Verification Framework[4]

Key Performance Indicators

(…)  a significant component of the accountability framework for any participating organization is the selection of a suite of organizationally appropriate performance indicators. Participants are encouraged to select indicators that will provide a reasonably accurate representation of the implementation. To guide this work the following categories should be considered.

  1. Participant Commitments
  2. Risk Assessment
  3. Public Security
  4. Private Security
  5. Process to manage allegations
  6. Engagement with stakeholders

It is the responsibility of Participants to develop a set of valid selection criteria to ensure that any assessment is a reasonably representative sample. This may involve the inclusion of a proportional number of problem locations and lower risk ones. It also involves the evaluation of a statistically relevant representative sample size.

Voluntary Principles Initiative, Model Clauses[5] 

D. Screening with respect to Security and Human Rights

The Government Security Force agrees to ensure that Government Security Force personnel who have faced credible allegations that they committed violent crimes or were involved in human rights abuses, will not be assigned duties in and around the project area.   Any Government Security Force personnel active in and around the project area, who is found later to be credibly implicated in human rights abuses, will be removed from the area and will be dealt with in accordance with applicable national and international law.

F.  Use and Control of Weapons and Equipment

Company shall not be required to, and Government Security Force shall not request that, Company provide lethal weaponry, including hard ammunition, or make any payment in order to procure such weapons, weaponry, or ammunition.  Government Security Force agrees that no support, including any payments, provided by Company shall be used for lethal weaponry or other lethal equipment.    Government Security Force agrees that any equipment provided by Company will not be used for any other purpose than that contemplated by this agreement and will only be used when personnel are on duty, or as otherwise specified in this Agreement.

G.  Investigation of Security Incidents  

Government Security Force agrees to promptly advise Company of any security incident involving use of weapons or use of force, and of any alleged human rights violation or abuse in which Government Security Force personnel was involved while performing their duties in relation to the Company’s property, facilities or personnel. Government Security Force will promptly investigate, report, and resolve all such incidents, potential violations or abuses in accordance with applicable national and international law. Government Security Force will regularly inform Company of progress in the investigation or proceedings following the investigation. During the course of the investigation or proceedings, Government Security Force agrees to suspend the personnel under investigation or being prosecuted from his/her duty in and around the project area.  (…) 

If the Government Security Force or appropriate official investigation finds that Government Security Force personnel used disproportionate force, violated or contravened the Security and Human Rights Standards, human rights and/or international humanitarian law, or agreements on use of weapons or other equipment, personnel shall be subject to appropriate disciplinary action by the Government Security Force and/or be reported to the appropriate authorities, and Government Security Force shall take appropriate action to prevent recurrence.   

H. Transparency

The Parties agree to make their security arrangements transparent and accessible to the public, subject to any overriding safety and security concerns. 

Voluntary Principles Initiative, Implementation Guidance Tools[6]

What is risk assessment?

Risk is simply “the impact of uncertainty on objectives”. A risk assessment is about identifying, analysing and evaluating those uncertainties. The objective of the VPs is to ensure that security is managed in a way that respects human rights and humanitarian law. Therefore, a VPs risk assessment is about assessing the uncertainties that could impact this objective, and identifying how to address them.

Risk assessments are conducted across a range of activities and the approaches to doing so are now fairly standardized (e.g. the ISO31000 international risk management standard is a set of easy-to understand principles). A VPs risk assessment follows these standards; the only difference is that it is VPs-specific. As such, the tools described in this module can be easily integrated into existing risk management approaches and methods. Similarly, existing tools and approaches can be adapted in order to better reflect the VPs.

VPs risk assessment looks at both security risks to the company and human rights risks to communities in which the company is operating. (…)

Case Study: Managing equipment transfers

A company operating in West Africa routinely gets asked by the military for fuel, the use of company vehicles, and other equipment. The military is under-resourced and it cannot adequately protect local citizens or the company without these extra resources. The company must therefore transfer equipment from time to time in order to manage security risks. The company identified that this poses a number of other risks, particularly the risk that equipment transferred could be used to carry out human rights abuses. The company also found in the past that fuel provided to the military can get bunkered (i.e. illegally sold on for profit), and vehicle parts stripped (from engines to tyres) and similarly sold on.

To manage these risks, the company put in place a number of safeguards. It has made clear to the military its expectations around conduct and only transfers non-lethal equipment. It has placed tracking equipment on all vehicles so that it knows the whereabouts of its vehicles at all times. It also provides its own paid drivers to the military when vehicles are transferred so that agreements around their use can be assured and to ensure that the vehicles are not used inappropriately. Finally, it works with its peer companies to track the amount of fuel transferred so that it can control the risk of fuel being bunkered. These safeguards have so far proven very effective in managing human rights risks.

Addressing Security and Human Rights Challenges in Complex Environments[7]

Working with public security forces

Security actors may have very different attitudes to human rights than found in VPs member companies’ home states.

Good Practices

Communicate company’s adherence to the VPs and include this commitment in agreements with the host government to facilitate acceptance by national security actors

  • Prepare a clear statement of policy that stipulates the enterprise’s human rights expectations of its partners or parties directly linked to its operations. The statement should also be publicly available to enhance its weight (GPs: 16). It “provides a starting point from which the enterprise can better leverage respect for human rights”. (UNIG: 27)
  • Communicate company policy regarding ethical conduct and human rights to public security forces. (VPs: 3)
  • Consult national laws to identify existing norms reinforcing VPs standards and make reference to them in any contracts or agreements with host state actors.
  • Include VPs in contracts/agreements/MoUs with the host government. The existence of “contracts or other formal agreements can play an important role in requiring or creating incentives for those other parties to respect human rights”. Effective “communication between the company staff that draw up the contract, departments that will be involved in its execution and those that have oversight of human rights issues” is essential. (UNIG: 47-48)

Meet regularly with the management of public security forces

  • “Establish a pattern of regular, formal meetings with public security providers in order to exchange security information and address concerns regarding human rights and (international) humanitarian law.” (IGTs: 40)

Focus on common values

  • Focus the dialogue on concepts like “operational excellence,” “best practice”, “respect for human life and dignity” or other shared values. Also, “establishing camaraderie between the public provider and the company security manager on the basis of shared or similar experiences in public service can be very effective” in making the case for VPs relevance and importance. (IGTs: 41, 47)
  • Work with local public security force commanders to establish mutually agreed Rules of Engagement for the use of force under human rights and international humanitarian law. “These rules then should become a part of any training the public security forces do prior to deployment to the company’s facilities.” (MIGA: III-8)

Case Study: Human Rights Training In Cameroon

In Cameroon, as in many countries, oil and gas operations are considered a national asset, with public security forces charged with the responsibility for the safety and security of extractive operations. (…) A training programme was developedaround five key elements.

Firstly, the training focused on practical situations the soldiers of the BIR have commonly encountered in the past. The programme was based on everyday situations such as local protests and road blocks rather than general principles of human rights (FFP, 2013: 2).

Secondly, the joint process identified common values such as honour, respect and ensuring human security, which were used in the training to ‘translate’ the aim of human rights standards into the local discourse (ibid.).

Thirdly, the training material was adapted to the local context. For instance, the programme approached concepts such as ‘human security’ from the perspective of the family, since the initial scoping study identified the deep importance of family to Cameroonians (ibid. 4).

Fourthly, the joint process provided a platform for the BIR participants to present and discuss their own operational experience. BIR soldiers and commanders could review their peers’ challenges and share personal good practices.

Lastly, the joint-process found a suitable medium through which all affected actors could best be reached that was designed to augment and support the actual training course, and provide a take-away resource for participants. It was decided that the best approach would be a series of comic books, which proved easy to disseminate. The comic series, entitled “Captain Cameroun”, reflected local and challenging situations highlighting both inappropriate and appropriate security responses focusing on the previously identified shared values: family, honour, respect and ensuring human security.

International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers[8]


1. Private Security Companies and other Private Security Service Providers (collectively “PSCs”) play an important role in protecting state and non-state clients engaged in relief, recovery, and reconstruction efforts, commercial business operations, diplomacy and military activity. In providing these services, the activities of PSCs can have potentially positive and negative consequences for their clients, the local population in the area of operation, the general security environment, the enjoyment of human rights and the rule of law.

6. Signatory Companies commit to the following, as set forth in this Code:

  1. to operate in accordance with this Code;
  2. to operate in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, and in accordance with relevant corporate standards of business conduct;
  3. to operate in a manner that recognizes and supports the rule of law; respects human rights, and protects the interests of their clients;
  4. to take steps to establish and maintain an effective internal governance framework in order to deter, monitor, report, and effectively address adverse impacts on human rights;
  5. to provide a means for responding to and resolving allegations of activity that violates any applicable national or international law or this Code; and
  6. to cooperate in good faith with national and international authorities exercising proper jurisdiction, in particular with regard to national and international investigations of violations of national and international criminal law, of violations of international humanitarian law, or of human rights abuses.

Selection and vetting of personnel

48. Signatory Companies will establish and maintain internal policies and procedures to determine the suitability of applicants, or Personnel, to carry weapons as part of their duties. At a minimum, this will include checks that they have not:

  1. been convicted of a crime that would indicate that the individual lacks the character and fitness to perform security services pursuant to the principles of this Code;
  2. been dishonourably discharged;
  3. had other employment or engagement contracts terminated for documented violations of one or more of the principles contained in this Code; or
  4. had a history of other conduct that, according to an objectively reasonable standard, brings into question their fitness to carry a weapon. (…)

Incident reporting

63. Signatory Companies will prepare an incident report documenting any incident involving its Personnel that involves the use of any weapon, which includes the firing of weapons under any circumstance (except authorized training), any escalation of force, damage to equipment or injury to persons, attacks, criminal acts, traffic accidents, incidents involving other security forces, or such reporting as otherwise required by the Client, and will conduct an internal inquiry in order to determine the following:

  1. time and location of the incident;
  2. identity and nationality of any persons involved including their addresses and other contact details;
  3. injuries/damage sustained;
  4. circumstances leading up to the incident; and
  5. any measures taken by the Signatory Company in response to it.

Upon completion of the inquiry, the Signatory Company will produce in writing an incident report including the above information, copies of which will be provided to the Client and, to the extent required by law, to the Competent Authorities.

Grievance procedures

66. Signatory Companies will establish grievance procedures to address claims alleging failure by the Company to respect the principles contained in this Code brought by Personnel or by third parties. 67. Signatory Companies will:

  1. establish procedures for their Personnel and for third parties to report allegations of improper and/or illegal conduct to designated Personnel, including such acts or omissions that would violate the principles contained in this Code. Procedures must be fair, accessible and offer effective remedies, including recommendations for the prevention of recurrence. They shall also facilitate reporting by persons with reason to believe that improper or illegal conduct, or a violation of this Code, has occurred or is about to occur, of such conduct, to designated individuals within a Company and, where appropriate, to competent authorities;
  2. publish details of their grievance mechanism on a publically accessible website;
  3. investigate allegations promptly, impartially and with due consideration to confidentiality;
  4. keep records about any such allegations, findings or disciplinary measures. Except where prohibited or protected by applicable law, such records should be made available to a Competent Authority on request;
  5. cooperate with official investigations, and not participate in or tolerate from their Personnel, the impeding of witnesses, testimony or investigations;
  6. take appropriate disciplinary action, which could include termination of employment in case of a finding of such violations or unlawful behaviour; and
  7. ensure that their Personnel who report wrongdoings in good faith are provided protection against any retaliation for making such reports, such as shielding them from unwarranted or otherwise inappropriate disciplinary measures, and that matters raised are examined and acted upon without undue delay.

International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers’ Association[9]

The International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers’ Association (ICoCA) is a multi-stakeholder initiative established as a Swiss non-profit association.  (…) All members – States, private security companies and civil society organizations (the three ‘pillars’) – form part of the General Assembly. Similarly, the Board of Directors consists of twelve elected members, which grant equal representation to each pillar. (…)

The ICoCA is guided by the principles of the Code of Conduct. These include a commitment to good governance, respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, and a high standard of professional conduct. Its operations are carried out globally, with integrity, impartiality and confidentiality.  The ICoCA strives to ensure protection and provide remedy to victims of abuse by private security providers. The ICoCA endeavors to prevent excessive use of force; to prevent torture and other degrading treatments or punishments; to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse, and gender-based violence; to prevent human trafficking, slavery and forced labour; to protect the rights of children; and to prevent discrimination. 

International Code of Conduct Association, Complaints

The International Code of Conduct Association (ICoCA) receives and processes complaints of alleged violations of the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers (‘the Code’) by its Member companies. (…)

Two types of complaints may be reported to the Association:

  1. Complaints from an individual or his or her representative alleging harm caused by an alleged Code violation by an ICoCA Member company; or
  2. Complaints by an individual or a group with credible evidence of an alleged Code violation by an ICoCA Member company.

In either case the Association initiates a process to respond to the complaint: 

  1. Where an individual or his or her representative alleges harm caused by an alleged Code violation, the Association will work with the complainant and the ICoCA Member company to facilitate access to a fair and accessible grievance procedure that may offer an effective remedy. This may include the ICoCA Member company’s grievance procedure, the good offices of the Association, mediation services, or alternative mechanisms. At all times, the interests and priorities of the complainant will guide the choice of resolution. This process is guided by the Article 13 Procedures for Receiving and Processing Complaints.
  2. Where an individual, group or their representatives has credible evidence of an alleged Code violation by an ICoCA Member company, the Association will address the complaint with the Member company. Such complaints may be brought by any group or individual whether or not harmed and may include alleged Code violations which have occurred or are about to occur. This may include anonymous complaints, complaints by whistle-blowers, or complaints by any other individuals or groups with credible evidence of alleged Code violations. This process is guided by the ICoCA’s Article 12 Procedures for Reporting, Monitoring and Assessing Performance and Compliance.

International Code of Conduct Association, Certification[10]

In order to apply for ICoCA Certification, Member companies need to be certified to one of the following ICoCA-recognized standards by an independent accredited certification body:

  • PSC1 
  • ISO 28007
  • ISO 18788

PSC.1-2012 establishes a mechanism for private security service providers and their clients to provide demonstrable commitment, conformance, and accountability to the principles outlined in the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers and the Montreux Document.

ISO 18788:2015 provides a framework for establishing, implementing, operating, monitoring, reviewing, maintaining and improving the management of security operations. It provides the principles and requirements for a security operations management system; and provides a business and risk management framework for organizations conducting or contracting security operations and related activities.

ICRC, The Montreux Document[11]


The presence of private military and security companies (PMSCs) in armed conflicts has traditionally drawn scant attention. In some ways this is surprising; as such, reliance on private entrepreneurs during war is nothing new. Such entrepreneurs have played a role in wars past and present, from ancient times to the conflicts of our day. But historians apparently considered them no more than an ancillary aspect of military affairs, their status and significance warranting no particular scrutiny.

This has now changed. Today, PMSCs are viewed in some quarters as an indispensable ingredient of military undertakings. Since the end of the Cold War, demand for PMSCs has increased to such an extent that there is now a lively PMSC industry offering an ever wider range of services, with some companies employing well beyond 10,000 staff. In terms of scale and scope of services involved, PMSCs today are a wholly new phenomenon. (…) 

“PMSCs” are private business entities that provide military and/or security services, irrespective of how they describe themselves. Military and security services include, in particular, armed guarding and protection of persons and objects, such as convoys, buildings and other places; maintenance and operation of weapons systems; prisoner detention; and advice to or training of local forces and security personnel.

Contracting states

1. Contracting States retain their obligations under international law, even if they contract PMSCs to perform certain activities. If they are occupying powers, they have an obligation to take all measures in their power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, i.e. exercise vigilance in preventing violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

7. Although entering into contractual relations does not in itself engage the responsibility of Contracting States, the latter are responsible for violations of international humanitarian law, human rights law, or other rules of international law committed by PMSCs or their personnel where such violations are attributable to the Contracting State, consistent with customary international law, in particular if they are:

  1. incorporated by the State into their regular armed forces in accordance with its domestic legislation;
  2. members of organized armed forces, groups or units under a command responsible to the State;
  3. empowered to exercise elements of governmental authority if they are acting in that capacity (i.e. are formally authorized by law or regulation to carry out functions normally conducted by organs of the State); or
  4. in fact acting on the instructions of the State (i.e. the State has specifically instructed the private actor’s conduct) or under its direction or control (i.e. actual exercise of effective control by the State over a private actor’s conduct).

8. Contracting States have an obligation to provide reparations for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law caused by wrongful conduct of the personnel of PMSCs when such conduct is attributable to the Contracting States in accordance with the customary international law of State responsibility

Home states

14. Home States have an obligation, within their power, to ensure respect for international humanitarian law by PMSCs of their nationality, in particular to:

  1. disseminate, as widely as possible, the text of the Geneva Conventions and other relevant norms of international humanitarian law among PMSCs and their personnel;
  2. not encourage or assist in, and take appropriate measures to prevent, any violations of international humanitarian law by personnel of PMSCs;
  3. take measures to suppress violations of international humanitarian law committed by the personnel of PMSCs through appropriate means such as administrative or other regulatory measures as well as administrative, disciplinary or judicial sanctions, as appropriate.

ICRC, The Montreux Document in a Nutshell[12]

Does any international treaty mention the rights and obligations of PMSCs directly?

No international humanitarian law or human rights treaty mentions PMSCs specifically. The Montreux Document compiles those rules of international law that are most pertinent to PMSC operations, for easy reference.

Do PMSCs operate in a legal vacuum?

No, (…) In situations of armed conflict certain well-established rules and principles do clearly apply, namely under international humanitarian law, which regulates both the activities of PMSC staff and the responsibilities of the States that hire them. Also, human rights law imposes a number of obligations on States to protect persons against misconduct on the part of PMSCs. The Montreux Document explains these rules and principles.

What rules to apply to PMSCs and their personnel?

All individuals have to respect international humanitarian law in any activity related to an armed conflict. PMSC personnel are no exception. If they commit serious violations of humanitarian law, such as attacks against civilians or ill-treatment of detainees, these are war crimes that must be prosecuted by States. While companies as such have no obligations under international law, their employees do.

On the other hand, international humanitarian law and human rights law also protect the personnel of these companies. The protection they are entitled to will vary depending on the type of activity they engage in.

Who has the authority to prosecute suspected war criminals?

The State in which a contractor is deployed will usually have authority (jurisdiction), because the crime was committed on its territory. However, PMSC employees may have immunity under a bilateral agreement, such as a status-of-forces agreement; such agreements usually cover the armed forces of one State that are present in another State, but are sometimes extended to civilians accompanying the armed forces and to PMSCs. Also, States experiencing armed conflict do not always have the practical capacity to prosecute crimes if judicial systems are weakened.

Other States can also exercise jurisdiction if one of their nationals commits a crime abroad. However, States have not always established jurisdiction under domestic law for such cases. And, even if they have established jurisdiction, the fact that the crime was committed abroad in a situation of armed conflict can pose serious practical obstacles to criminal investigations, for instance when it comes to gathering evidence.

UN, Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights[13]

Supporting business respect for human rights in conflict-affected areas

7. Because the risk of gross human rights abuses is heightened in conflict-affected areas, States should help ensure that business enterprises operating in those contexts are not involved with such abuses, including by:

  1. Engaging at the earliest stage possible with business enterprises to help them identify, prevent and mitigate the human rights-related risks of their activities and business relationships;
  2. Providing adequate assistance to business enterprises to assess and address the heightened risks of abuses, paying special attention to both gender-based and sexual violence;
  3. Denying access to public support and services for a business enterprise that is involved with gross human rights abuses and refuses to cooperate in addressing the situation;
  4. Ensuring that their current policies, legislation, regulations and enforcement measures are effective in addressing the risk of business involvement in gross human rights abuses.

Freeport-McMoran, Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights Report[14]  

Company procedure to conduct security and human rights risk assessments 

In 2015, for example, the Action Plans resulting from the TFM HRIA were integrated into the site’s risk register process. These included Action Plans relating to:   

  • The responsible prevention of illegal on‐site mining and the mitigation of its impacts  
  • The conduct of public security providers on the concession  
  • The security of TFM’s employees and contractor employees   

Site‐level risk registers are maintained by inter‐departmental teams at the operational level. The corporate sustainable development team and senior, cross‐functional corporate personnel monitor and reviews the site‐level registers, and maintain a corporate‐level risk register. 

Anglo American, Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights Report[15]

Respect for human rights is at the heard of Anglo American’s values

Policies, Procedures and Related Activities

(…) Effective grievance mechanisms are a core element of our human rights approach and having a complaints and grievance procedure is mandatory across all our operations, which includes complaints related to security arrangements. There are various mechanisms in place through which security related human rights incidents are reported: ranging from incidents reported directly to the Security departments that are recorded on their electronic incident management systems to anonymous disclosure reports made via our “Speak Up” whistle-blowing mechanism.  

ICRC, Business and International Humanitarian Law[16]

How are the operations of business enterprises protected against attacks under International Humanitarian Law? 

Personnel of business enterprises – be they local or expatriate personnel or contractors – performing their usual business activities are generally considered civilians and therefore benefit from the protection against deliberate and indiscriminate attacks. However, international humanitarian law stipulates that civilians who directly participate in hostilities lose their protection from attack for the time that they are carrying out these activities. (…) 

            Business enterprises’ property such as factories, offices, vehicles, land and resources are considered civilian objects and thus also benefit from the protection against deliberate and indiscriminate attacks. However, if business property is used for military purposes, it becomes a military object and risks being legitimately attacked by parties to the conflict. 

ENODO Rights, Assessment of the Porgera Remedy Framework[17]

This report concerns an ambitious corporate program to remedy egregious human rights violations. Barrick Gold conceived the Olgeta Meri Remedy Framework (the Framework) in response to devastating accounts of sexual violence committed by private security personnel at the Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea. The Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights1 were the Framework’s touchstone. Barrick drew on them to design an elaborate operational-level grievance mechanism (OGM) to adjudicate sexual violence claims and determine individual remedies. Between 2012 and 2014, the Framework was implemented by two organizations independent of Barrick: the Porgera Remedy Framework Association (PRFA), an entity led by prominent Papua New Guinean women’s rights advocates; and Cardno Emerging Markets, an environmental, social and infrastructure consultancy. Ultimately, 119 women were awarded remedies—including cash compensation, medical care, counseling, school fees and business training—for sexual violence committed between 1990 and 2010.

The Framework’s design has been praised for its remarkable ambition and commitment to the Guiding Principles. At the same time, however, the Framework has been the flashpoint of local and international stakeholder controversy. Stakeholders have at various times raised concerns about the Framework’s alignment with the Guiding Principles; its respect for international human rights; its incorporation of local custom; its sensitivity to claimant wishes and the views of local human rights advocates; and its exclusive focus on sexual violence. More recently, Barrick has been accused of unfairness for agreeing to higher compensation than under the Framework for a group of women who rejected Framework remedies and threatened to sue the company in the United States. (…)

We have aimed with this assessment to evaluate the Framework objectively against an authoritative standard. This is not a report about our impressions of private actors’ responsibilities under public international law. We seek instead to identify exactly how and why the Framework did or did not align with the Guiding Principles. Mathematical certainty in this context is impossible. To minimize the risk of caprice we have privileged analytical structure and methodological transparency. We started by identifying the relevant Guiding Principles—GPs 22, 29 and 31. We then applied interpretive maxims from international law to unravel the practical meaning of each GP. The process resulted in 26 indicators. These serve as the assessment’s template by delineating the boundaries of acceptable decisions and outcomes. We assess the Framework against each indicator on two dimensions: design and implementation. (…)

The Framework was conceived with sincere and considered commitment to the Guiding Principles. Barrick’s design should be lauded for its rare ambition and meticulous attention to claimants’ rights. But implementation errors compromised the Framework’s actual performance. Claimants were thus exposed to a process which failed adequately to protect them and which they did not understand. In the end, successful claimants received remedies that were equitable, even generous, under international law. Nevertheless, many were left disaffected, stigmatized and abused. Responsibility for these results is not the Framework’s alone. It should be shared by international stakeholders whose errors of judgment and unwillingness to engage in good faith exacted a great toll on claimants. (…)

Concerted pressure on the Framework to issue cash compensation was even more pernicious for claimant security. Claimants themselves first applied the pressure. International stakeholders magnified it. In doing so, a few of these international stakeholders allied themselves with two local, male-run, self-styled human rights organizations whose interest in women, let alone in survivors of sexual violence, appears instrumental and recently minted. The credibility of both groups had previously been questioned by Human Rights Watch. (When discussing sexual violence, a prominent member of one of these groups callously joked, in front of two survivors, about gang rape by dogs.) The cash-oriented position of this alliance contravened the advice of every single expert in sexual violence in Papua New Guinea Barrick consulted when designing the Framework, including (i) representatives from UN Women, (ii) government officials, (iii) human rights defenders, and (iv) Porgeran women’s leaders. Each of these experts warned that women in Porgera are commodified subjects of a customary patriarchy. In this oppressive social context, they argued, cash compensation would largely benefit claimants’ male relatives at the expense of claimants themselves. (…)

The pressure from international stakeholders and claimants led the PRFA to make cash the lion’s share of all remedy packages. Successful claimants each ultimately received 50,000 Kina—8 times the national per capita income—in cash. The decision, notwithstanding its popularity, undermined the Framework’s ability to empower socio-economically disadvantaged and vulnerable women in Porgera. First, cash made every award fungible. Claimants became targets for avaricious relatives, and could be easily dispossessed by their families. Second, cash made every award easily comparable. The Framework could no longer tailor remedies to individual claimants without compromising the OGM’s legitimacy. Third, cash is easily dissipated. For claimants who retained their money, the PRFA could no longer patiently build their capacity to launch and run a business. All of these possibilities materialized. Claimants were immediately, often forcefully, dispossessed of their remedy; every award was virtually identical; and, what cash remained in claimants’ possession was quickly spent, with no durable benefit. (…)

Background (Cambodia)

BNG, Legal Monthly Law Update[18]

There are two types of private security. The first is created by private security company and the other is created internally by other entities for its own security purpose. The private security company shall request the approval from Ministry of Interior for permission for operating business. The Ministry shall have General Commissariat of National Police as security for reviewing the application. The Capital/Provincial Administration shall permit any entities to create its own security upon the request from Provincial/Capital Police Commissariat. Further this sub decree outlines the obligation of private security company and any private entities to fulfill and comply with the requirement. The administrative cost for this application shall be determined by Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Economic and Finance. In addition, the sub decree indicates the sanction if there is an offense committed by private security companies or other private entities. The sanction includes a written warning, business suspension, and permit cancellation. Further, it shall stop the security business and fine it in the amount of 20,000,000 riels to any private security company operating without permission from Ministry of Interior. Further, it stops the security activity created by other entities without permission from Capital/Provincial Administration. However, the private security company that runs their business, and other entities that already recruited their own security prior to this sub decree have to fulfill all the requirements within six months after this sub decree came into force.

Instruments (Cambodia)

Law on the General Statute of Military Personnel of the Armed Forces[19]

Article 25: It shall be forbidden for career military personnel”:

  • to undertake a private professional activity during hours of service;
  • to use the influence or power inherent in their positions to gain any interest or to violate citizens with threats;
  • to undertake an activity breaching the honor and integrity of the Royal Cambodian Armed Force
  • to be a member of a board of directors or to ensure the management of a private company.

Sub-Decree on Management of Private Security[20]

Article 5: Ministry of Interior has authority to grant permission for all private security company including agency and other security service.

Art. 12: Companies provide the private security service shall have following obligations:

  • Request permission for private security agencies to use​ equipment, material, techniques, means or animals for serving security activities
  • Comply with the General Commission of National Police on the security profession
  • Develop a joint plan of security protection activities​ and order for serving the customer
  • Develop a plan protecting location, property, and life of customer in each practical case
  • Request permission for training security agencies from the General Commission of National Police
  • Report monthly about private security company activities to the General Commission of National Police
  • Request for intervention from competence authority if necessary
  • Ensure the Social Security of the security agency following the law in force.
  • Provide the private security service in accordance with applicable laws
  • Cooperate in providing security agents following the request of the General Commission of National Police if necessary.

Oxfam, Extractive Industries Program in Cambodia[21]

The general lack of activity in the EI sector has also made it difficult for civil society to build a constituency of support amongst the Cambodian general public for good governance of the EI sector, since, as the Prime Minister’s adage suggests, there is very little EI to governor monitor at this point in time! Furthermore, the smaller operators that are extracting minerals are difficult to monitor given that they commonly employ local police and/or military as ‘security’. This is ironic, the lack of negative social and environmental impacts is denying the Program the opportunity to build up a constituency of support to monitor companies for their social and environmental impact!

It is important to note that the confused context described above is significantly impacted by the changed profile of EI companies operational in the (North East) NE, whereby the majority are small, almost invisible local operators whose governance and authority to operate is incredibly difficult to clarify. It is also common for mining sites to be difficult (and costly) to access, and for sites to be guarded by off duty police and military performing a ‘security guard’ role. Approaching mine sites therefore needs to be well planned to ensure safety, and to overcome the intimidatory nature of such an approach.

Global Witness, Sponsorship of Military Units by Private Business[22]

Global Witness is concerned that this policy officially sanctions an arrangement where businesses get military protection in return for financial backing. A number of the companies named as military sponsors already have track records of using the military to protect their business interests. For example, Global Witness’s 2009 report, Country for Sale, described how the Try Pheap Company used armed forces to guard a mine in Stung Treng Province.

            Other high-profile Cambodian companies allegedly providing sponsorship include the Mong Reththy Group, the Ly Yong Phat Company, and the Chub Rubber Plantation Company.

            The Ambassador of Cambodia to the United Kingdom and Scandinavia, Hor Nambora, said relying on some private funding of the military was necessary so that Cambodia’s armed forces could be rapidly modernized. This was particularly important in the light of recent tensions and border incidents involving neighboring Thailand.

NGO Forum on Cambodia, Statistical Analysis of Land Disputes in Cambodia[23]

Land disputes occurred in every one of the 12 Khan/Districts of Phnom Penh, representing 25 cases. Khan Dangkao has the highest number of disputes, with up to 6 cases emerging in six Sangkat/communes, followed by Ruessei Kaev where 5 disputes emerged in five Sangkat. It should be noted that 2 cases out of 6 cases emerged in Khan Dangkao where threats and violent acts were made by the defendant (company) and police, 10 people were detained, but were later released.

On 20 March 2011, company staff and military police had destroyed local villagers’ houses and crops. On 23 January 2014 the company’s guards comprising approximately 40 people, parachute trooper 911, and environment officers cleared rice fields and burned the houses of 35 people. They also blocked villagers not access to the area. However, a council of ministers intervened after the affected people were gathering to the block company road for 3 nights and 3 days. As a result, the Sor Chor Nor 315 was issued on 19 February, 2014 to suspend all company activities until the land dispute could be resolved. Furthermore, on 10 and 11November 2014, 40 company guards destroyed and burned 18 houses in Kean Kralanch village; forcing18 HHs to stay in the Pagoda while they were homeless.

Global Witness, The Corporate Empire of the Cambodia’s Ruling Family[24]

SL Garment factory where workers claim they were told she was director general of the company. In 2013, 75 private security guards from the security wing of Seng Ny’s company, the Garuda Group, were sent into the factory to deal with striking workers. Trade Union officials accused the Garuda security guards of intimidating and using violence against striking workers. In April 2016, an investigation conducted by a conservation organisation and published in international media, alleged that SL Garments’ factory is burning illegally-logged timber taken from protected areas to heat water for washing machines and steam presses.

NGO Forum on Cambodia, Free, Prior and Informed Consent[25]

[re Development Process in Indigenous Peoples Communities of Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri Province]

Cambodia law requires that “military personnel be neutral in their functions and work activities” and are “strictly prohibited” from using “influence and power of their own functions to exploit any advantage or for intimidating, threatening and abusing the rights of the citizens”. To support the right of Indigenous People to freely decide whether to provide or withhold their consent, Government authorities at all levels must be vigilant to ensure no military personnel are ever present in a community subject to an economic development project, unless there is some unrelated emergency, such as a flood, war or other natural disaster that is in line with the public duties. Military personnel involvement in a private business operation is not service in line the public duties of Cambodian Royal Armed Forces personnel. Similar restrictions should be considered for police and company security personnel, unless there is no other alternative than to deploy these personnel to the area. Where companies inform Government authorities that they require the use of security personnel of any kind, companies should be obliged to abide by the ‘Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights’ (…)

            When Mong Reththy began clearing the land in late 2010, around 50, mostly Cham Muslim, families (those at one end of the village affected most by this concession) blocked the main road. They reported that they decided not to go to the company office nearby because the police protected it. Soon after blocking the road, about 100 military police arrived in trucks to break up the protest. Three villagers were hit and bullets were fired into the air to intimidate them. However, the protesters remained for almost 24 hours, demanding that someone from the Provincial government came to meet them. “We waited 24 hours for a representative from the province to come with an announcement from the Council of Ministers that the company should stop.” The Deputy Provincial Governor explained that the national government had given authority back to the province to decide. While this happens, Mong Reththy has removed their machinery.

FIDH & Licadho, Report for the Human Rights Committee’s Task Force[26]

In the 1999 Concluding Observations, paragraph 11, the Committee noted that it was “alarmed at reports of killings by the security forces, other disappearances and deaths in custody, and at the failure of the State party to investigate fully all these allegations and to bring the perpetrators to justice.” In reality, the concerns expressed by the Committee in 1999 remain valid and pressing. In January 2014, police and military personnel shot and killed at least four persons using live ammunition at the Canadia Industrial Park in southwest Phnom Penh to suppress workers demonstrating for better wages and better working conditions at the garment and textile factories. An additional 38 people were hospitalized during the attack, 25 of whom suffered bullet wounds. One person, who a witness says was shot in the chest by security forces, remains missing. The government has failed to thoroughly and transparently investigate the deaths, injuries and disappearance that resulted from this violent suppression. Three weeks after the shooting, the government announced that an investigation into the violence had been completed. High-ranking officials have stated that the focus of investigation was to determine responsibility for initiating the violence not to determine responsibility for causing the death and injury of protesters. Moreover, the government has neglected to properly investigate the disappearance of a 16 year old boy who has not been seen since that day when the young garment worker lying on the ground with a bullet wound to his chest, according to witnesses.

            Investigations by LICADHO show that these recent tragedies were not exceptional. In fact, they illustrate a pattern of use of excessive and lethal force which is followed by failure to investigate or punish. During 2012-2013, LICADHO monitors investigated 10 fatalities related to police or military action. Some examples include: On 12 November 2013, in Phnom Penh’s Stung Meanchey District, police fired indiscriminately at a crowd of striking factory workers, local residents, and bystanders, killing 49-year-old street vendor Eng Sokhum and injuring nine others. One man was paralyzed as a result of his injury. The government scoffed at demands for an investigation claiming that the violence was simply in the service of protecting the state. On 15 September 2013, at Kbal Thnal bridge, Phnom Penh, 29-year-old Mao Sok Chan was killed instantly when he was shot in the head. The killing took place following a day of post-election protests during which the authorities set up barbed wire road blocks throughout the city. Mao Sok Chan was killed as he tried to make his way home when police fired indiscriminately on a crowd of commuters, local residents and demonstrators caught up in the ensuing traffic chaos. There has been no credible investigation into the killing. On 2 April 2013, a local police officer shot dead a 28-year-old factory worker in Mes Thngak commune, Chantrea District, Svay Rieng Province. The police officer opened fire on a group of youths after a fight broke out at a wedding party. The victim’s relatives accepted a compensation of 2,800 USD from the perpetrator but after LICADHO sent a report to the prosecutor urging an investigation, the investigating judge charged the accused the police officer and initiated legal proceedings. On 23 January 2013, in Preak Hour commune, Takhmau District, Kandal Province, a 29-year-old worker was shot in the head and killed by a soldier who caught the victim fishing illegally in an area that he guarded. The suspect was arrested and charged with murder by the prosecutor, the case is being investigated by the investigating judge. So far, in nine out of the ten fatal cases there has been no credible prosecution or investigation.9 The most frequent outcome for a victim’s family was financial compensation of between 1,500 and 2,800 USD which was paid in return for agreement to withhold or withdraw a legal complaint.

Touch & Neef, Local Responses to Land Grabbing, Conflict and Displacement[27]

Most of cases occurred in areas with strong economic growth, were about agricultural land and involved powerful foreign investors, domestic political and economic elites and local authorities… Military and police forces have played an increasingly prominent role in land disputes and land evictions, siding with company owners and national, provincial and district authorities (…) In early February 2014, TUDG security guards, backed by soldiers, reportedly destroyed 42 homes in Ta Noun commune and two houses in Koh Sdech commune. This resulted in a protest by 100 villagers from Koh Kong’s Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts, who asked for compensation and stayed outside the TUDG offices for two days. Subsequently, ministerial officials and provincial authorities convened a meeting with company representatives to urge the latter to increase their efforts in providing adequate infrastructure to relocated communities (The Phnom Penh Post, 28 March 2014). The head of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia also visited the contested area and arranged meetings between villagers and TUDG, only days after villagers publicly accused the company of hiring soldiers to prevent villagers from planting paddy rice in their former land. The villagers expressed strong hopes for the support from the UN office, with one of them quoted as saying: ‘This company is like an elephant and we are like ants’. Shortly after the meetings, which had been reported as being productive, an incident occurred in which TUDG security guards severely injured a woman who was trying to plant rice on the land from which she had been evicted.

            This is also true in the case of rural Cambodia, where dispossessed peasants have found no effective means to withstand the powerful coalition of government officials, concessionaries and the military involved in illegitimate and unethical land grabs on a momentous scale….More open forms of resistance, such as the interruption of road traffic and violent clashes with the concessionaire ’security personnel, have quashed quickly through the excessive, state-sanctioned use of the armed forces, resulting in an increasing fatalistic stance among large parts of the local peasantry, while smaller groups have continued their fight. In the Cambodian case, Polanyi’s double-movement takes the form of a continuous oscillation between forced commodification of natural resources by domestic and foreign elites on the one hand and the combination of overt and covert resistance strategies by the rural peasantry on the other. Yet, to date, the odds have been stacked against the Cambodian peasants, who, as a result of decades of conflict and unrest, lack organization across village boundaries. Their voices have been ignored by the home governments of the investors, which continue to regard Cambodia as a promising new haven of investment, trade and tourism, where the displacement and dispossession of the poor are deemed unavoidable collateral damage for the foreseeable future.

Hendrickson, Cambodia’s Security-Sector Reforms[28]

(…) the growing involvement of the police in business has undermined its primary protective function. In many cases, the police have become part of security problem. Under the protection of senior officers, Cambodia’s sex industry, for example, has burgeoned, expanding into Thailand and Vietnam.20 The state’s inability to pay adequately and hence to regulate the police is largely a consequence of budgetary pressures. As public confidence in law enforcement has declined, there has been a sharp rise in popular forms of justice, such as the public lynching of criminals. In the absence of effective rule of law, élite groups, businesses and individuals have become reliant on alternative sources of protection, including private security firms and small arms, while the most vulnerable sectors of society have been excluded from the new security arrangements.

            Many soldiers who are still formally registered in the army works in the private sector, often for private security firms (which pay much higher salaries) involved in protecting the logging industry. Increasingly, police services have been privatized as well.

            The government’s inability or unwillingness to control the army’s commercial activities was at the root of its 1997 quarrel with the IMF and contributes to the significant shortfall in state revenue today.

Spiegel, Land and ‘Space’ for Regulating Artisanal Mining in Cambodia[29]

To illustrate the complexity of “making space for artisanal mining,” the ASM site visited in Kratie, as shown in Figure1b, is located completely within a mining concession which itself is not only immediately adjacent to other mineral concessions, but entirely located within the land concession held by another company–an agribusiness. The agribusiness company (Green Island) was reportedly conducting teak logging in its concession, and interviews indicated that not only are artisanal miners in Sambo treated purely as “illegal”, but the artisanal miners are caught in wider cross-company feuds over space between these larger companies. Coming into contact with security forces of both companies was not uncommon in Sambo. Just as critical scholarship on land grabs and communities’ land use practices in Cambodia stresses the importance of rethinking the “illegality” of local land use practices from a more pro-poor and context-sensitive perspective, similar cautions are needed here, with historical complexities of resource extraction and resource disputes carefully considered. Some of Kratie’s Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) activity goes back decades as a family tradition, as in Sambo, and in such cases the term “illegal” would be a misleading oversimplification.

            Land use conflicts have created difficulties for environmental planning, and conflicts between artisanal miners and security. While heterogeneous, ASM activities are generally defined in terms of their reliance on rudimentary mineral extraction technologies. These include companies based out of Australia, South Korea, Vietnam, China, Singapore and Thailand, for example, in addition to companies based in Cambodia. Forces of both large companies and state authorities have led to intensified public concern about the need for mining reforms. By unpacking the question “Is there space for regulating artisanal mining in Cambodia?” this article contributes to a growing body of scholarship on land conflicts and land grabbing in Cambodia, which has warned of the problems of eviction and forced relocation of marginalized rural communities. Particular focus has been on whether there is physical land space as well as political space for recognizing the rights of local and migrant Cambodian land users in the face of neoliberal policies that prioritize large-scale companies and that benefit a small segment of the population


  1. What is the relationship between private security and public authorities when it comes to business operations in Cambodia?
  2. Is the provision of security services adequately regulated in Cambodia and in line with international standards?
  3. What are the common issues concerning provision of security in Cambodia? Explain and provide concrete examples.
  4. What disciplinary measures can be taken against individuals and private security firms that fail to comply with the law?
  5. Is corporate and industry self-regulation effective in Cambodia in the private security sector?

Further Readings

International Bodyguard and Security Services Association, Report on the Activities of IBSSA Cambodia – Annex 9 (undated) http://www.ibssa.org/index.php?article_id=558.

[1] Vincent Bernard, ‘Editorial: Globalisation Will Only Mean Progress if it Is Responsible’, Special Issue: Humanitarian Debate: Law, Policy, Action – Business, Violence and Conflict, International Review of the Red Cross 887 (2012) https://www.icrc.org/en/international-review/business-violence-and-conflict.

[2] Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (2000) https://www.voluntaryprinciples.org/the-principles/.

[3]  Voluntary Principles Initative, Governance Rules (2018) http://www.voluntaryprinciples.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/VPI_Governance_Rules_-_April_2018.pdf.

[4] Voluntary Principles Initative, Corporate Pillar Verification Framework (2015) http://www.voluntaryprinciples.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Corporate-Pillar-Verification_Framework-May-2015.pdf.

[5] Voluntary Principles Initative, Model Clauses for Agreements Between Government Security Forces and Companies with Respect to Security and Human Rights (2016) https://respect.international/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Model-Clauses-for-Agreements-between-Government-Security-Forces-and-Companies-with-respect-to-Security-and-Human-Rights.pdf

[6] Voluntary Principles Initiative, Implementation Guidance Tools (2011) http://www.voluntaryprinciples.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/VPs_IGT_Final_13-09-11.pdf.

[7] Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) & International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Addressing Security and Human Rights Challenges in Complex Environments (2016) http://securityhumanrightshub.com/sites/default/files/publications/ASHRC_Toolkit_V3.pdf

[8] International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers (2010) https://icoca.ch/en/the_icoc#a-preamble.

[9] International Code of Conduct Association, About Us, https://icoca.ch/en/icoc-association.

[10] https://icoca.ch/apply-icoca-certification#process.

[11]  International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) & Swiss Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Montreux Document – On Pertinent International Legal Obligations and Good Practices for States Related to Operations of Private Military and Security Companies During Armed Conflict (2008) www.mdforum.ch/pdf/document/en.pdf.

[12] Swiss Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), The Montreux Document in a Nutshell, https://www.mdforum.ch/pdf/The-Montreux-Document-in-a-Nutshell.pdf.  

[13] Human Rights Council, UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Seventeenth Session (2011) http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf.

[14] Freeport-McMoRan, Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, 2015 Annual Report to the Plenary (2016) http://www.voluntaryprinciples.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Freeport-McMoRan.pdf.

[15] Anglo-American, Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights – 2015 Annual Report (2015) http://www.voluntaryprinciples.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/security-human-rights-voluntary-principles-2015.pdf

[16] International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Business & International Humanitarian Law (2006) https://www.icrc.org/eng/assets/files/other/icrc_002_0882.pdf.

[17] ENODO Rights, An Independent Assessment of the Porgera Remedy Framework (2016) https://barrick.q4cdn.com/788666289/files/porgera/Enodo-Rights-Porgera-Remedy-Framework-Independent-Assessment.pdf.

[18] BNG Legal, Monthly Law Update: June 2013, http://bnglegal.com/cn/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/130725-MLU-June.pdf.

[19] Cambodia, Law on the General Statute of Military Personnel of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (1997) https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/ELECTRONIC/93508/109344/F811412622/KHM93508%20Eng.pdf.

[20] Cambodia, Sub-Decree on Private Security Management, (Unofficial Translation) No. 289RNKr. BK (2013).

[21] Oxfam, Evaluation Report ‘Extractive Industries Program in Cambodia (2009-2012)’ (2013) https://oxfamilibrary.openrepository.com/bitstream/handle/10546/620780/er-extractive-industries-program-cambodia-300813-en.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.

[22] Global Witness, Global Witness Urges Cambodia’s Donors to Condemn Sponsorship of Military Units by Private Business, (undated) https://www.globalwitness.org/en/archive/global-witness-urges-cambodias-donors-condemn-sponsorship-military-units-private-businesses/.

[23] NGO Forum on Cambodia, Statistical Analysis of Land Disputes in Cambodia 2015 http://www.ngoforum.org.kh/library-ngof-publication/.

[24] Global Witness, Hostile Takeover: The Corporate Empire of Cambodia’s Ruling Family (2016) https://www.globalwitness.org/en/reports/hostile-takeover/.

[25] NGO Forum on Cambodia, Free, Prior and Informed Consent in the Development Process in Indigenous Peoples Communities of Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri Province (2012) http://ngoforum.org.kh/files/imrp_fpic_report_english.pdf.

[26] FIDH & Licadho, Report for the Human Rights Committee’s Task Force for the Adoption of the List of Issues on Cambodia (2014) https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CCPR/Shared%20Documents/KHM/INT_CCPR_ICO_KHM_17185_E.pdf.

[27] Siphat Touch and Andreas Neef, Land Grabbing, Conflict and Agrarian-Environmental Transformations: Perspectives from East and Southeast Asia (2015) https://www.iss.nl/sites/corporate/files/CMCP_16-_Touch_and_Neef.pdf

[28] Dylan Hendrickson, Cambodia’s Security-Sector Reforms: Limits of a Downsizing Strategy, Journal of Conflict, Security & Development (2001) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/250890236_Cambodia’s_security-sector_reforms_limits_of_a_downsizing_strategy.

[29] Sam Spiegel, ‘Land and Space for Regulating Artisanal Mining in Cambodia: Visualizing an Environmental Governance Conundrum in Contested Territory’, Land Use Policy, 54 (2016) https://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/files/31085095/Spiegel_LUP_2016_LandSpaceArtisanalMiningCambodia.pdf.


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