The legal status of employees of private military/security companies participating in U.N. peacekeeping operations
Mohamad Ghazi Janaby
Host item entries:
Northwestern journal of international human rights, Vol. 13, issue 1, 2015, p. 82-102
The outsourcing of military and security services used in U.N. peacekeeping operations to PMSCs creates a gray area in international law. Under international humanitarian law, sometimes called the law of war, peacekeepers who engage in military operations are either civilians engaged in lawful self-defense or unlawful combatants. Conversely, the various international conventions that govern peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations grant peacekeepers the rights of combatants. This tension becomes more acute when PMSCs are utilized, both when they are employed by a Member State and seconded to the U.N., and when they are employed directly by the U.N. itself. PMSCs seconded to the U.N. would likely not qualify as peacekeepers under the U.N.’s peacekeeping conventions, while the protections afforded to peacekeepers (such as immunity from local prosecution) seem inappropriate regarding PMSCs hired directly by the U.N. In particular, while PMSCs employed in peacekeeping operations would not satisfy the technical criteria of mercenaries under the law of war, the protections afforded to peacekeepers assume that peacekeeping forces are subject to the domestic justice system of a Member State, which would not be the case with those employed directly by the U.N. This tension seems ineluctable given the current structure of international humanitarian law and U.N. peacekeeping rules.