Montreux Document - a process aimed at governments

The Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies is an inter-state document.  It describes how international law, in particular international humanitarian law and human rights law, applies to private military and security companies (PMSCs) when these are present in armed conflict.  It is the result of a joint initiative launched by Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2006. After various rounds of discussions, 17 states jointly finalised the document at a meeting in Montreux, Switzerland, on 17 September 2008.  Civil society and industry were consulted during the drafting. Since its release, another 35 states have expressed their support for the document (as of June 2015).  This brings the total to 52 countries.  The European Union has also joined the document.  

The Montreux Document expresses the view of participant states that there is no legal vacuum for the activities of PMSCs in areas of armed conflict.  The document is not legally binding in itself, but refers to existing international law with the intention to clarify obligations and to promote respect for international humanitarian law and human rights law.

The document is divided into two parts: pertinent international legal obligations relating to PMSCs and good practices relating to PMSCs.  In the first part, obligations of different actors under international humanitarian law and human rights law are outlined. These actors include contracting states, territorial states, home states, PMSCs and their personnel and superiors.  Furthermore, state responsibility for private conduct under international customary law is addressed.

In the second part, some 70 "best practices" are outlined.  These are formulated as recommendations directed at states and are largely based on state regulations in relation to PMSCs and/or armed forces.  The scope of the best practices ranges from contracting and authorisation of PMSCs to ensuring prosecution of PMSC personnel in case of serious breaches of law.

In December 2014 the Montreux Document Forum was established as a platform for participants to share & discuss good practices and challenges regarding the regulation of PMSCs. 

A complementary Global Code of Conduct for the security industry has been developed.  For further information on this initiative click here.

A selection of key reports on the Montreux Document is accessible below.

For further reports & articles, see the Resource Centre’s general section on the Montreux Document under the title "Swiss government & ICRC initiative on private military & security companies".

Official website & document

Montreux initiative

[Español] Documento de Montreux

[Français] Initiative de Montreux

Arabic, Chinese, Russian

Reports and commentaries

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5 August 2015

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1 November 2008

Regulating Private Military and Security Companies: The Content, Negotiation, Weaknesses and Promise of the Montreux Document

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14 October 2008

Amnesty International Public Statement on the Montreux Document on Pertinent International Legal Obligations and Good Practices for States related to the Operations of Private Military and Security Companies during Armed Conflict

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10 October 2008

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