The past two decades have witnessed the emergence and rapid growth of private military and security contractors (PMSCs). Today these corporate entities make up a global security industry whose value is over US$100 billion. Their rapid rise has sparked enormous interest regarding the nature of the services they carry out on the battlefield - including services that constitute direct participation in hostilities - and whether the present legal regime governing armed conflict foresees, and adequately caters for, this peculiarity. International humanitarian law classifies all actors operating in armed conflicts as either combatants or civilians, conferring rights and obligations upon them on the basis of where it is that they fall in this divide. This article is of the view that the majority of PMSC personnel will be considered as civilians, a contradiction in view of the reality of their activities, and proceeds to highlight the potential consequences and challenges that arise from their present classification.
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