The Montreux Document (the document), which was concluded in September 2008, seeks to delineate commonly agreed upon rules in international law about the operation of private military and security companies (PMCs) in conflict zones. This is an agreement between 17 state parties, which include the US, UK, Germany and China amongst others. The document, which is not binding per se, has persuasive authority and is set down in the form of best practices for the operation of PMCs. It addresses three key players. The state parties contracting with the PMCs (the contracting state), the territorial states on whose area the PMCs operate (the territorial state), and the PMCs. In this context, the document closely examined the killing of 17 civilians in Baghdad by the personnel of Xe (previously Blackwater), which is one of the most notorious PMCs. Its main provisions seek to establish respect for International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and Human Rights (HR) by employees of PMCs. It also attempts to bring the contracting state within the ambit of responsibility in case of a violation of law by the PMC personnel. Additionally, it seeks to set out more stringent rules and assessment mechanism for the operation of PMCs, as well as provisions for the prosecution of violators. This has been seen as a welcome development by most HR activists. The Montreux Document potentially holds great significance for Pakistan, as the war on terror continues to be waged and the US continues to maintain a reliance on PMCs in the region. More so, the US has expressed its commitment to the principles set forth in this document. This movement towards PMC regulation can be construed to be an encouraging development, given the absence of a legal apparatus for the regulation of PMCs before this. Unfortunately, Pakistan is not yet a party to the agreement. So, an examination of the rights and responsibilities entailed will highlight the wisdom of signing the agreement. The document places great stress on the responsibilities and rights of the territorial state, Good Practice (GP) 49 of the document states that PMCs are obliged to follow the laws of the territorial state. Therefore, the security companies operating here are bound by the constraints of Pakistani law. Similarly, Statement 7 in Part 1 of the document seeks to make the contracting state, such as the US in the present case, liable for the actions of PMC personnel in certain instances. Even where responsibility cannot be traced back to the state, they are still obliged to monitor and ensure compliance of the PMC personnel and to prosecute them in cases of violations of IHL and HR laws. GP 1 and 24 of the document encourage territorial states and contracting states to mutually determine which duties may or may not be contracted out to PMCs. This is an especially relevant measure, as it would allow Pakistan to retain a degree of control on the operation of PMCs within its territory. There would be some ability to demarcate actions that go beyond this agreed upon limit to PMC operations, and to approach the US to exercise greater control over its contractors or to punish violators. Similarly, in GP 22 questions of how PMC personnel will be prosecuted are set down as something that should be agreed upon by both the contracting and territorial states. Where criminal jurisdiction will lie and whether states wish to provide mechanisms for assessing the corporate responsibility of the PMC are also important matters that require mutual agreement between the two states. There already exists a precedent for agreements of this nature with the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) being concluded between Iraq and the US in 2008. The document also recommends the use of non-criminal accountability mechanisms, such as contractual and administrative sanctions, civil liability and reparations from PMCs to those affected by the violations. Hence, the existence of such an agreement would allow Pakistan to prosecute PMC personnel for crimes against its citizens and violations of its law, rather than to let matters remain at the discretion of the US. Under GP 21 and 46 contracting states are also required to aid and assist the territorial state in building proper monitoring authorities that are adequately resourced, as well as informing civilian populations about the rules governing PMC conduct and the available complaint mechanisms. In addition, the territorial state must a build system to assist reporting by local authorities and also conduct investigations of the reports of wrongdoing. Currently, no such process exists in Pakistan either in collaboration or separately of the US. Clearly, the adoption of the document will give Pakistan the opportunity to vie for greater leverage and involvement in the deployment of PMCs in its territory, as well as the ability to prosecute violations of the law. Moreover, this will be done with the pressure and authority of the international legal opinion behind it, giving it legitimacy, while mere political manipulation and pressure tactics will not work. The Montreux Document can be used, and indeed is intended, to act as a pedestal from which we will pave the way for further practical regulation of PMCs through contracts, codes of conduct, national legislation, regional instruments and international standards. It is a welcome development in international law to fill what was a largely unregulated area of practice before this. With the document, IHL has come a step closer to fulfilling its purpose and responding to the realities and vagaries of the war as it exists today. Though we cannot ignore the often weak implementation and monitoring of such international agreements, it, nonetheless, provides an opportunity to hold states up to their own standards. If it does not entirely level the playing field between the oft stronger contracting states and weaker territorial states, it goes a long way towards righting the balance. The writer is associated with the Research Society for International Law. Email: