The current military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq put on the agenda a new modern version of one of the oldest jobs: mercenary.
A mercenary is a versatile fighter essentially motivated by the desire for private gain.The early days of this activity go back to 2 500 BC but has developed to an unprecedented scale during the decolonization process in the 1960’s and 1970’s despite regional and international conventions to end this illegal activity.
Since the end of the Cold War a new kind of mercenaries has appeared. They are employed by known companies, some of which are registered on the stock exchange. Working with the approval of governments the private military and security companies (PMSC’s) work as subcontractors executing different military and security tasks which used to be the monopoly of the State previously. The PMSC’s offer a large range of services that countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom became dependant on for their military operations.
The numerous incidents (blunders against civilians, prisoner tortures) caused by people working for PMSC’s in recent conflicts revealed the absence of regulation and legal framework for this activity.
This report focuses on the erosion of one of the last state prerogative which is the legitimate coercion. The study presents the historical evolution of the mercenary activity and describes the way in which some countries try to entrust this role the PMSC’s. The last part examines the national and international initiatives designed to implement a more binding legal framework for the PMSC’s activities.