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Private military/security companies operating in situations of armed conflict: a gap in human rights and humanitarian law?

In association with the International Committee of the Red Cross
Speakers: Andy Bearpark, Dr Chaloka Beyani, Emanuela-Chiara Gillard
Chair: Professor Conor Gearty, Centre for the Study of Human Rights
May 2006

Abstract

The number of private military / security companies operating in situations of armed conflict has grown exponentially in recent years and the nature of their activities has changed significantly. These commercial organisations now have a very significant presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in many African countries. Often registered in places like the US and the UK, and drawing their personnel from around the world, the proliferation of these actors reflects an increased tendency towards outsourcing and privatisation by nations with the power and the commitment to engage in military action and in peacekeeping overseas.

Have international and national law kept pace with the expansion of these private military/security companies? Or are there issues raised by these new actors that are not addressed by the law? How can such companies be held accountable for the actions of their staff? What is the responsibilities of states that hire them? How can they be held accountable either legally or politically? What rules regulate the use of force by the staff of private military/security companies operating in war-zones and other dangerous environments? What are the responsibilities, if any, of the states where these companies are registered? Can international humanitarian law meet the challenge posed by these actors? Does human rights law have a role to play?

Andy Bearpark is Chair of the New British Association of Private Security Companies; Dr Chaloka Beyani is a senior lecturer in Law at LSE; Emanuela-Chiara Gillard is a Legal Advisor at the Legal Division of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

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