The Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies

About the Document

The Montreux Document reaffirms the existing obligations of states under international law, in particular international humanitarian law (IHL) and human rights law, relating to the activities of private military and security companies (PMSCs) in situations of armed conflict.

It also lists good practices designed to help states take national measures to implement these obligations. As the result of a joint initiative launched by Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 2006, the Montreux Document clarified the misconception that PMSCs operate in a legal vacuum by recalling and compiling applicable international obligations. It is a practical and realistic contribution which aims to promote respect for IHL and human rights law and provides a blueprint for governments to effectively regulate PMSCs. Finalised in 2008, the Montreux Document seeks to provide guidance on the basis of existing international law and is not a legally binding treaty. Regardless of their support for the initiative, states are already subject to the international legal obligations contained in the Montreux Document. Although the Document was developed with the view that PMSCs operate in situations of armed conflict, it may also be instructive for post-conflict situations and for other, comparable situations. Furthermore, most of its good practices are ideally put in place during peacetime.


The Montreux Document highlights the responsibilities of three principal types of states: Contracting states (countries that hire PMSCs), Territorial states (countries on whose territory PMSCs operate), and Home states (countries in which PMSCs are headquartered or based). The Document also contains sections relevant to all states and international organisations, PMSCs and PMSC personnel. While the Document is addressed primarily to states, the good practices may be useful for other actors such as international organisations, civil society, companies that contract PSMCs, and PMSCs themselves. Part one of the Document recalls the pertinent legal obligations of states regarding PMSCs. These obligations are primarily drawn from existing international humanitarian and human rights agreements and customary international law.

Part two contains a description of good practices which aim to provide guidance and assistance to states in regulating PMSCs. The good practices include determining which services may or may not be contracted out to PMSCs, requiring appropriate training, establishing terms for granting licenses, and adopting measures to improve supervision, transparency and accountability of PMSCs.

Related Links

Download: The Montreux Document in a Nutshell

Template to express support for the Montreux Document (Arabic, English, French, Russian, Spanish)
In October 2008, the Montreux Document was presented to the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council by the Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the UN. The Document and its accompanying letter were translated into the six official UN languages: Arabic | Chinese (Standard Chinese) | English | French | Russian | Spanish

Comprehensive Text (English)

Comprehensive Text (Español)

Comprehensive Text (Finnish)

Comprehensive Text (Français)

Comprehensive Text (Russian)