Contemporary Private Military Firms under International Law: An Unregulated “Gold Rush”


The Article addresses the legal issues raised by the ascendance of contemporary Private Military Firms. This article has as its aim an exploration of the thorny legal issues raised by the commodification of force. It discusses the nature of the contemporary PMF noting that it bears vestiges of yester year mercenaries. It then grapples with their uncertain status under international law despite the fact that they potentially pose problems for state authority and the direct control of states over the use of force. At the heart of the argument is the reality that PMFs maintain the ability to inflict violence on a scale previously reserved to sovereign nations and the real potential to violate humanitarian norms. Yet, they are largely inadequately regulated under existing domestic and international frameworks thus bear hazy legal liability and sanction.


International Law

Date of this Version

May 2006