The provision of military services by mercenaries has long been a major problem in international relations, and one that has been particularly visible during armed conflicts. International law is full of gaps in this area. It has thus been for national governments to determine, in their national legislation, exactly what is legal and what is illegal with regard to mercenary activities, and, possibly, to lay down criminal penalties for non-compliance. Changes in the methods and resources used to conduct military operations have now led to the establishment of what are broadly referred to as ‘private military and security companies’ (PMSCs).
Over recent years, the situation has reached a stage where, in some cases, such firms are, to all intents and purposes, taking on the state’s responsibility for providing collective security. The real problem is that there are no hard and fast rules on the accountability of PMSCs which, in the performance of their contracts, carry out what are in reality military operations during which they commit human rights abuses, and numerous breaches of humanitarian law occur.
PMSCs may therefore be said to be modern-day mercenaries. Companies of this kind have their head offices or registered offices in the European Union — in particular in countries such as the United Kingdom and France — and services are outsourced on the EU market by public and private organisations from both within and outside the European Union.
1. Does the Commission believe that specific rules on oversight of PMSCs should be laid down?
2. What view does the Commission take of the convention currently being drawn up within the UN on the activities of such companies?
3. Has the Commission drawn up any proposals for binding secondary legislation on oversight of PMSCs?
4. What stance will the Commission be taking at the second session of the intergovernmental working group (IGWG) tasked with drawing up the convention, which has yet to get under way owing to opposition from some countries to the draft convention?