The International Code of Conduct (ICoC ) was elaborated in the last 14 months with the objectives of improving industries’ standards and ensuring respect for human rights and humanitarian law by private security service providers. “In conflicts non-state actors like private security service providers are of increasing importance. Therefore the commitment of private security providers to respect and support international standards is an important step in order to strengthen human rights and humanitarian law”, said State Secretary Peter Maurer of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs while addressing media.
The ICoC is based on the assumption that companies must respect human rights independently from the condition of national state law. For this reason the ICoC repeats important prohibitions like the prohibition to kill, the prohibition to torture, to discriminate or the prohibition of human trafficking.
At the same time the ICoC defines certain management policies that should ensure that personnel of private security providers respect these norms. Apart from others, standards for recruiting and training personnel, as well as company intern information and control mechanisms are required.
The ICoC is signed by companies. International organisations, states and other clients like commodity traders or humanitarian organisations cannot sign the code, but can support it by giving a political statement. States can make being signatory to the code a precondition for licence issuing procedures. Another aim is to achieve that clients, be they states, extractive industries or humanitarian organisations, integrate the ICoC in their contracts.
The International Code of Conduct emphasises the fact that it does not replace an effective national policy and state control. On the contrary, the International Code of Conduct must be seen in relation to other initiatives. In 2008 Switzerland presented the internationally recognised “Montreux Document” recalling the pertinent international obligations and good practices for States related to operations of private military and security companies during armed conflict and expressing the consensus that international law, in particular international humanitarian law and human rights law, does have a bearing on private security service providers and that there is no legal vacuum for their activities. Furthermore, a working group within the United Nations is discussing possible elements of a new convention regulating state obligations regarding activities of private military and security companies.
International law is only applicable to non-state actors in certain limited circumstances, whereas an International Code of Conduct overcomes these legal and theoretical ambiguities. If companies express their commitment to respect these standards, the International Code of Conduct can become the basic document to spell out rules for private security providers and offer practical advice on how to deal with them. “Switzerland therefore regards dialogues with non-state actors with a specific impact on human rights, such as corporations in general and private security providers in particular, as an important form of co-operation with the objective of integrating them into peace and human rights policies”, said State Secretary Peter Maurer.
Apart from signing the International Code of Conduct, companies and stakeholders present will establish a steering committee that will be responsible for initiating the development of an external independent mechanism for effective governance and oversight. This mechanism together with the objective to establish measurable standards and certification is the backbone of the implementation of the International Code of Conduct. In the words of the Code itself: “Those establishing this Code recognize that this Code acts as a founding instrument for a broader initiative to create better governance, compliance and accountability.”
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