IntroductionPMCs – private military companies that operate in various zones of conflict. They provide military skills in verticals such as combat operations, planning, intelligence gathering, operational support, logistics, training, and procurement and maintenance of arms and equipment. PSCs offer security and protection of personnel and property, including humanitarian and industrial assets.The decrease in the amount of armed forces throughout the world after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the increase in new conflicts, demand for military manpower and expertise, was the cause of the rapid growth of PMCs and PSCs in the 1990s. Western security strategies, after the cold-war called for a restructuring and of armed forces. Following the trend of “outsourcing,” many military organizations gave up their non-core enterprises, such as the infrastructural defense and the protection of individuals, leaving them to be taken care by PMCs and PSCs.
The huge number of PMC and PSC employees – when totalled, outnumber UK’s troops – contracted during the Bush administration, multinational corporations and even non-governmental organizations in Iraq has started discussions over their status under international humanitarian law as outlined in the Geneva Conventions. This debate is very significant, as the status of the PMCs defines their rights, obligations and accountabilities.Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions differentiates between people who actively participate in armed conflicts, combatants, and civilians, those who do not. But, what constitutes “active participation” and can a weapon-carrying person still be called as a civilian? Or, is a PMC employee actually a mercenary?Academics, politicians, non-governmental organizations and the judiciary have debated over these definitions given by the Geneva Conventions and not succeeded to come up with clear resolutions about the status of PMC employees. Even though majority are generally classified as civilians, since they are not part of the actual armed conflict, they increasingly take control of military tasks, such as the protection of civil authority buildings and politicians.
In doing so, PMC and PSC employees become partially-legitimate military targets, losing their civilian status when actively engaging in hostilities.The ambiguity of the these statuses of the PMC employees often blurs the line between civilians and combatants in international humanitarian law, thereby initiating situations that may lead to a greater disdain of the laws of wa