Private Military and Security Companies and Human Rights

  • Carlos LopezEmail author


This chapter addresses the question of whether there are gaps in international human rights law in relation to the activities of PMSCs. To that end, it first examines the grounds of attribution of unlawful acts to states under human rights treaties, which are generally those of general international law. The article argues that international human rights bodies, especially at the Inter-American level, have adopted a broader concept of “agent of the state” at the regional level and draws special attention to the Committee against Torture’s position that largely attributes PMSCs’ acts of torture and inhuman and cruel acts to the contracting state. The chapter addresses also the nature of the state’s obligations regarding PMSCs within the domestic jurisdictions, with a focus on the obligation to protect and to provide effective remedies and access to justice to victims of PMSC abuses. In this regard, there is a clear gap due to the absence in international instruments of norms regarding the civil, criminal, or administrative legal liability of PMSCs and regarding the operation of these rules in a transnational context and the so-called complex environments where PMSCs operate.


Books and Book Chapters

  1. Cameron L (2009) New standards for and by private military companies? In: Peters A et al (eds) Non-state actors as standard setters. Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  2. Daza F (2017) Delimitation and presence of PMSCs: impact on human rightsGoogle Scholar
  3. De Schutter O (2010) Sovereignty-plus in the era of interdependence: towards an international convention on combating human rights violations by transnational corporations. In: Bekker P, Dolzer R, Waibel M (eds) Making transnational law work in the global economy: essays in honour of Detlev Vagts. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  4. Seiberth C (2014) Private military and security companies in international law. Intersentia, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  5. Verbitsky H, Bohoslavsky JP (2013) Cuentas Pendientes: Los Cómplices Económicos de La Dictadura. Siglo Ventiuno editors, Buenos AiresGoogle Scholar


  1. International Commission of Jurists (2014) Needs and Options for a New International Instrument in the Field of Business and Human Rights, JuneGoogle Scholar
  2. International Commission of Jurists (2010) Access to Justice: Human Rights Abuses involving corporations - Poland, 2010, p. 9 ff. Available at
  3. International Commission of Jurists (2008) Corporate Complicity and Legal Accountability, Report of the International Commission of Jurists Expert Legal Panel on Corporate Complicity in International Crimes, 3 volumesGoogle Scholar
  4. Ministerio de Justicia y Derechos Humanos de la Nación Argentina, CELS and FLACSO-Argentina (2015) Responsabilidad Empresarial en Delitos de Lesa Humanidad: Represión a Trabajadores Durante el Terrorismo de Estado, 2 vols., Ministerio de Justicia y Derechos Humanos, Buenos AiresGoogle Scholar
  5. Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (2014) STC/Legal/Min/7(I) Rev. 1, in The Report, the Draft Legal Instruments and Recommendations of the Specialized Technical Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, EX.CL/846(XXV), June 20–24Google Scholar
  6. State Responsibilities to Regulate and Adjudicate Corporate Activities under the United Nations’ core Human Rights Treaties - Individual report on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (2007), prepared for the mandate of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises with the support of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human RightsGoogle Scholar
  7. Zerk J (2014) Corporate Liability for Gross Human Rights Abuses: Towards a Fairer and More Effective System of Domestic Law Remedies - A report prepared for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Google Scholar

Articles and Press Releases

  1. Deutsch A (2016) Dutch appeals court says Shell may be held liable for oil spills in Nigeria. The Guardian, December 18, 2015. Available at:, last accessed on March 28
  2. Cassel D (2014) Suing Americans for human rights torts overseas: the Supreme Court leaves the door open. Notre Dame Law Rev 89(4)Google Scholar
  3. Milieudefensie/Friends of the Earth Netherlands (2016) Outcome appeal against Shell: victory for the environment and the Nigerian people, December 18, 2015. Available at:, last accessed on March 28
  4. Muchlinski P (2010) The provision of private law remedies against multinational enterprises: a comparative law perspective. J Comp Law 4(2):148–170Google Scholar
  5. Sassoli M, Olson L (2008) The relationship between international humanitarian and human rights law where it matters: admissible killing and internment of fighters in non-international armed conflicts. Int Rev Red Cross 90(871)Google Scholar
  6. Tougas M (2014) Commentary on Part I of the Montreux document on pertinent legal obligations and good practices for states related to the operations of private military and security companies during armed conflict. Int Rev Red Cross 96(893)Google Scholar

Case Law

  1. International Court of Justice (2007) Case Concerning Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Bosnia Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro), ICJ Rep. 43Google Scholar
  2. International Court of Justice (2006) Legality of the Threat of Use of Nuclear Weapons, ICJ ReportGoogle Scholar
  3. International Court of Justice (2005) Case Concerning Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda), ICJ ReportGoogle Scholar
  4. International Court of Justice (2004) Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion, ICJ ReportGoogle Scholar
  5. Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (2001) Riofrío Massacre, Report No. 62/01, Case 11.654, Colombia, April 6Google Scholar
  6. United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (2013) Balintulo v. Daimler AG, August 21, p. 20. Available at
  7. Inter-American Court of Human Rights (1998) Blake v. Guatemala, Series C No. 36, Judgment of January 24 (Merits)Google Scholar
  8. England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) (2012) Chandler v Cape plc, April 25, Case No. [2012] EWCA Civ 525, pars. 69–80. Available at
  9. European Court of Human Rights (1993) Costello-Roberts v. the United Kingdom, Case No. 13134/87, Judgment of March 25Google Scholar
  10. Supreme Court of the United States (2014) Daimler AG v. Bauman, January 14. Available at
  11. Supreme Court of the United States (2013) Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., Case No. 10-1491, April 17Google Scholar
  12. District Court of The Hague (2014) Milieudefensie et al v Shell et al, Judgment of January 30, 2013, Case Nos. C/09/337058/HA ZA 09-1581 and C/09/365482 HA ZA 10-1665. Available at
  13. United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (2014) Sarei et al. v. Rio Tinto PLC et al., No. 02-56256. Available at
  14. Inter-American Court of Human Rights (1988) Velásquez-Rodríguez v. Honduras, Judgment of July 29Google Scholar
  15. Inter-American Court of Human Rights (2004) The 19 Merchants v. Colombia, Judgment of July 5Google Scholar

United Nations and Council of Europe Documents

  1. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1991) General Comment 3, The nature of States parties’ obligations (Art. 2.1 of the Covenant), E/1991/23, Annex 3Google Scholar
  2. Committee on the Rights of the Child (2002) Report on the Thirty-First Session, CRC/C/121, 20 SeptemberGoogle Scholar
  3. Committee against Torture (2008) General Comment No. 2, “Implementation of article 2 by States parties,” CAT/C/GC/2, January 24Google Scholar
  4. Human Rights Committee (2004) General Comment 31, Nature of the General Legal Obligation on States Parties to the Covenant, adopted on March 29Google Scholar
  5. International Law Commission (2002) United Nations, Responsibility of States for internationally wrongful acts, annexed to the Resolution adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, A/RES/56/83, January 28Google Scholar
  6. Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (2016) Recommendation to member States on human rights and business, Recommendation CM/Rec (2016)3, adopted on March 2, 2016Google Scholar
  7. Third Report on State responsibility, by Mr. Roberto Ago, Special Rapporteur (1971) The internationally wrongful act of the State, source of international responsibility, UN Doc. A/CN.4/246 and Add.1-3, excerpt from the Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1971, vol. II, no. 1Google Scholar
  8. Yearbook of the International Law Commission (1974) Vol. II, Part OneGoogle Scholar

Guidelines, Principles and Other Soft Law Instruments

  1. Maastricht Guidelines on Violations of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1997)Google Scholar


  1. International Labour Organization, instruments are available at:


  1. European Union, Regulation (EU) No. 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters, OJ L 351, December 20, 2012, pp. 1–32Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Commission of JuristsGenevaSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations