Experts representing 17 countries agreed Wednesday on a new set of recommendations to enhance state control over private military and security companies.
They also reaffirmed the obligations of states to ensure that these private contractors abide by international humanitarian law, according to a statement issued by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The experts finalized the document at the end of a meeting in Montreux Switzerland, which was organized by the Swiss government under an initiative launched in 2006. The ICRC has been associated with the initiative since the beginning.
"The Montreux document will enhance the protection of people affected by armed conflict," said Philip Spoerri, the ICRC's director for international law.
"The document clearly reaffirms the fact that military and security contractors dispatched to war zones must comply with international law, and that States have a particular responsibility for ensuring compliance," Spoerri said.
"It is now very important that states take concrete measures to prevent violations from occurring and to hold contractors to account for unlawful behavior," he added.
The Montreux document, which is not legally binding, outlines for the first time ever detailed and practical measures to help states enhance compliance with international humanitarian law and ensure respect for human rights.
The measures are relevant when a state hires a private military/security company, when these companies are operating in its territory, or when a company is based in the territory of a state and provides military and security services abroad.
The 17 countries that participated in the initiative are Afghanistan, Angola, Australia, Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Iraq, Poland, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, Britain and the United States.