The use of informal security forces is on the rise in combat zones. Faiza Patel, head of a U.N. working group on the use of mercenaries, said more regulations were needed to control what she described as an alarming trend.
"Mercenaries pose a threat not only to security but also to human rights and potentially to the right of peoples to self-determination," she said in a statement. "It is crucial that states cooperate to eliminate this phenomenon."
The working group found "considerable" evidence that Liberian mercenaries were involved in the post-election conflict in neighboring Ivory Coast. Foreign fighters in Libya were reportedly used by the former regime to repress peaceful demonstrations against the government.
Patel expressed further concern that the use of private military contractors poses new human rights challenges in 21st-century warfare.
"The potential impact of the widespread activities of private military and security companies on human rights means that they cannot be allowed to continue to operate without adequate regulation and mechanisms to ensure accountability," she said.