The Criminal Responsibility of Private Military and Security Company Personnel under International Humanitarian Law
Can private military and security personnel be tried for war crimes in the same way as ‘classical’ military personnel acting in armed conflicts? Might they enjoy exemption from liability because of their unclear formal status under international humanitarian law? Private military and security personnel often act in hostile environments and frequently operate alongside state troops. While private military and security companies (PMSCs) usually claim their compliance with international humanitarian law standards, it cannot be excluded that their employees become involved in criminal conduct under the laws of war. Reported violations range from murder of civilians to inhuman treatment and use of warfare methods prohibited under international humanitarian law. To date, however, no private contractor has been sentenced for committing war crimes. This chapter seeks to understand to what extent such ‘immunity’ might depend on legal conditions, both substantive and procedural, rather than on extra-legal factors.
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