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Joining the Montreux Document reduces the incidence of violence against civilians


The study Commercial Military Actors and Civilian Victimization in Africa, Middle East, Latin America, and Asia, 1980–2011, authored by Charlotte Penel and Ulrich Petersohn, shows strong evidence that the implementation of the Montreux Document has a positive impact on the degree of violence against civilians during, and after, hostilities.

The Montreux Document reaffirms the existing obligations of States to regulate the activities of private military and security companies (PMSCs) according to international law - in particular international humanitarian and human rights laws. By joining the Montreux Document, States agree on the legitimate services to be undertaken by PMSCs, which leads their contracting practices to be less harmful to civilians. 

With the growth of this international normative framework protecting civilians during armed conflict, and the parallel trend of an increased presence of private actors in such settings, the authors explore the impact of commercial military actors - private security and military companies (PMSCs), as well as mercenaries –  on the risk of violence against civilians. 

The study, published by the Journal of Global Security Studies, argues that the sanctions PMSCs face for violations of human rights or international humanitarian law leads to a greater level of compliance with international norms. To test their argument, they use two different datasets on civilian victimization in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia between 1989 and 2018. Their analysis finds that states which endorsed the Montreux Document - and the good governance principles it enshrines – experienced an increased level of compliance with international norms. 

The analysis not only observes that private security services contracted by Montreux Document participants are more compliant with international legal provisions, but also confirms that the regulations in the home states of these companies has a significant impact on improving the level of compliance with international norms. PMSCs originating from countries with strong human rights standards tend to be less involved in violence against civilians.

“Where governments that were involved in the Montreux process contracted on the market for force,” according to the study, “the incidence rate of civilian victimization decreased by 72 percent.” Read the study.

For more on the Montreux Document: