n African Security Review - Private security contractors and international humanitarian law - a skirmish for recognition in international armed conflicts : features

Volume 16, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1024-6029
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In recent international armed conflicts private security contractors (PSCs) have played an ever increasing role and military advisors and tribunals are facing the dilemma of assessing the primary and secondary status of PSCs under international humanitarian law. In this article the misconception that PSCs are necessarily mercenaries will be dispelled. The possibility that PSCs might be categorised as combatants or civilians will then be explored. The conclusion is that where they are incorporated into the armed forces of a state, PSCs might attain combatant status. However, given that states are reluctant to formally incorporate PSCs into their armed forces, they will most likely remain essentially civilian. Their degree of participation in hostilities will determine whether they retain their immunity under international humanitarian law from attack and prosecution (as civilians) or whether they are rendered unlawful belligerents.

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