Private military firms and the state: sharing responsibility for violations of human rights and the humanitarian law

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Guinote, Filipa
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"Hired guns", "private soldiers", "corporate warriors": private military firms are controversial actors in current affairs. While some perceive them as new soldiers of fortune, these firms do not easily fit into legal definition of mercenary. What is more, they are becoming irreplaceable actors in the contemporary security and defence scenario. This work addresses the question of whether private military firms operate in a legal vacuum, from the perspective of human rights and humanitarian law. It shows that the international legal system offers mechanisms to address the challenges of the participation of private companies in war. These mechanisms remain attached to a State-based conception of human rights violations, but, as this study argues, this constitutes an adequate framework for dealing with private military firms. In fact, the nature of the activities carried out by defence contractors questions the relevance of the distinction between private and public action. These firms do not operate along a dividing line between public and private spheres; they operate in a grey area where public and private motivations, concepts and goals are intrinsically mixed. For this reason, assessing the responsibility of contractors and their employees is inevitably also examining the responsibility of the State. In other words, the privatisation of warfare does not lead to a privatisation of responsibility.
Second semester University: Maastricht University
human rights violations, mercenary troops, private security, state responsibility