Security forces and human rights

Improving human rights standards in a high-risk sector
Market differentiation through stronger operational standards
British Association of Private Security Companies (BAPSC)
UK (though operational worldwide)
No. of employees:


BAPSC was established in 2006 to promote the interests and regulate the activities of UK based companies that provide armed defensive security services in countries outside the UK. It aims to raise the standards of operation of its members and ensure compliance with the rules and principles of international humanitarian law and human rights standards.

Further information:

Dilemma: Need for self regulation in an emergent armed defensive security sector

According to BAPSC, the association was formed following increasing concern amongst a number of UK-based security companies that there was a need to raise operational standards and to advocate regulation including self regulation. This took place amid a large increase in demand for private security services originally in Iraq but increasingly in other fragile states and areas outside of the UK.

Good practice: Charter-based membership and principles-based human rights governance

BAPSC's Charter contains a number of provisions that have direct bearing on the protection of human rights. These include commitments to:

  • “Follow all rules of international, humanitarian and human rights law that are applicable as well as all relevant international protocols and conventions”
  • “Promote compliance with UK values and interests and with the laws of the countries in which its Members operate”
  • “Issue guidance on the substance of and the need to comply with international legal statutes, with due regard for ethical practice and standards of governance”

In addition, members undertake to be governed by 10 key principles, including the following:

  • Provide security that is primarily designed to deter potential aggressors and to avoid armed exchange. This allows for the defensive use of weapons to protect clients or personnel where there are no alternative to defending against armed attack or effecting evacuation
  • Train relevant staff to the standards required by each assignment and in accordance with applicable laws of the relevant country. Decline contracts for the provision of security services where this will conflict with relevant human rights law
  • Decline to provide lethal equipment to governments or private bodies where there is a possibility that human rights will be infringed

The BAPSC is explicit in its belief that it is only through effective self regulation (in addition to governmental/ international regulation) that its members will improve their competitive position with respect to non-members in the security sector.

In order to become a full member of BAPSC, companies must submit themselves to a formalised approval process. As part of this process, members must complete due diligence documentation, including personal declaration forms and a self assessment workbook. These cover a range of issues including adherence to BAPSC standards, assurance regarding directors' criminal history, and demonstration of industry best practice.

Results: Adherence to human rights principles by some of the UK's largest armed defensive security operators

The BAPSC has worked extensively with its members and humanitarian organisations such as the Red Cross to improve standards of training in international humanitarian law. It also acts as a channel between companies and international organisations such as the African Development Bank to ensure that consideration is given to human rights issues.

Full members of the BAPSC currently include some of the UK's largest armed defensive security operators, including:

  • Aegis Defense Services Ltd
  • G4S Risk Management Ltd
  • Control Risks
  • Maritime Asset Security and Training (MAST) Ltd
  • Olive Group

This is in addition to nine provisional members who are currently undertaking the full due diligence procedures, as well as 11 associate members who do not themselves provide armed services but work with the PSC industry.