Private military and security companies

During armed conflicts, states often transfer functions to private military and security companies (PMSCs). Supervision and control over their activities remains fragmentary. The Montreux Document, initiated by Switzerland and the ICRC, aims to improve the compliance by PMSCs with international humanitarian law and human rights.

The increasing role of PMSCs

Private contractors are increasingly present in armed conflicts and the nature of their activities has changed, bringing them closer to the heart of military operations. Their activities include guarding buildings, protecting persons, escorting humanitarian aid convoys, training and advising armed forces, operating complex weapons systems and intelligence-gathering. Their services can even extend to direct participation in hostilities.

A major challenge

Given the traditional concept of the state monopoly on the use of force, the question arises as to which functions can be outsourced to private companies or organisations. Compliance with international humanitarian law and respect for human rights by PMSCs is another concern as supervision and control over their activities remains fragmentary. When crimes are committed, the enterprises or their personnel are often called to account inappropriately. International humanitarian law and human rights law are often little understood.

Switzerland as initiator of the Montreux Document

On 2 December 2005, the Federal Council adopted a report on private military and security companies. It instructed the FDFA to launch an international initiative to promote compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights by PMSCs operating in conflict zones. The release of the so-called “Montreux Document”, achieved jointly with the ICRC, is the first outcome. On a parallel basis, the FDFA encourages PMSCs to follow up on the Montreux Document, in particular, by signing the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers. At national level, the FDFA applies the good practices of the Montreux Document within the framework of the Federal Act on Private Security Services Provided Abroad.