“Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.” This is a quote by Omar N. Bradley, who was the General and a senior officer of the army of the United States of America during and after World War II.

In this world, with the recent developments like inter state rivalries, constantly increasing nuclear and military capabilities of countries and what not, the role of military forces and increased technologies and equipments associated with it is also increasing. The world, with growing international conflicts around like in Syria, Libya etc., issues like the militarisation of the arcticaand so on, has become a volatile place wherein countries are looking to advance their military arsenal and show their “might” to the world.

In realist traditions of international relations, the role of military power is clear. In an environment of international anarchy, states are forced to rely on their own resources and order to ensure their continued existence. Military power is thus the Ultima Ratio of state power. Armed forces continue to defend the state against real or potential  threats which may be external in nature and as a coercive tool to promote and protect its national interests.

Indeed armed forces have their task cut out. Serving in the armed forces is greatest honour for any individual. World is like always vulnerable to conflicts that can break anytime making the role of armed forces very significant. But what has been seen is that this role has been limited to government only. So should private sector have a role in this? This is a major question that arises in the current international scenario. This is where the concept of Private Military Security Companies comes to play.

To begin with, Private Military Security Companies are private business entities that provide military and/or security services, irrespective of how they describe themselves. Military and security services include, in particular, armed guarding and protection of persons and objects, such as convoys, buildings and other places; maintenance and operation of weapons systems; prisoner detention; and advice to or training of local forces and security personnel. These are appointed by a state party so that its military capabilities are further enhanced and developed. They are used in furtherance of the already present standing army.

The 3 aspects of authority, responsibility and accountability are important while talking about the topic. The presence of private military and security companies (PMSCs) in armed conflicts has traditionally drawn minimal attention even though reliance on private entrepreneurs during war is nothing new. Such entrepreneurs have played a role in wars past and present, from ancient times to the conflicts of our day. Nevertheless, historians considered them no more than an ancillary aspect of military affairs, their status and significance warranting no particular scrutiny. But this has now changed. Today, PMSCs are viewed in some quarters as an indispensable part of military undertakings. Since the end of the Cold War, demand for PMSCs has increased to such an extent that there is now a whole new PMSC industry offering an ever wider range of services. In terms of scale and scope of the services involved, PMSCs today are a wholly new phenomenon.

In response, several diplomatic initiatives were launched to clarify what the role of PMSCs in armed conflicts is and should be. Personnel of PMSCs have been accused of engaging in a number of human rights violations including the abuse and torture of detainees, shootings and killings of innocent civilians, human trafficking in the recruitment of third-country nationals, destruction of property, sexual harassment and rape, weapons proliferation, and participation in renditions. No international humanitarian law or human rights treaty mentions PMSCs specifically.

While talking about the authority aspect of PMSCs, the status of PMSC personnel depends on their exact employment and functions. Most are to provide support functions such as equipment maintenance, logistic services, guarding diplomatic missions or other civilian sites, catering, etc. In these cases they are considered to be civilians.

This means they are protected against attack unless and for such time as they directly participate in hostilities. But it also means that if they take a direct part in hostilities, they can be prosecuted if domestic law criminalises such conduct. In rare cases, PMSC employees are incorporated into the armed forces of a State or form groups or units under a command responsible to a party to an armed conflict.

While discussing the accountability aspect of PMSCs, they do not operate in a legal vacuum. States often discover that they lack the necessary domestic legislation to deal with PMSCs. International law on mercenaries is also largely inapplicable to the relatively new phenomenon of PMSCs.

The lack of accountability for human rights violations that they have committed has been partly due to the difficulties in the application of domestic laws to PMSC actuating in foreign countries as well as to the difficulties in carrying out investigations in failed states. It has also been partly due to the difficulties in establishing responsibilities. However, under certain conditions, States that contract PMSCs can be held accountable for the violations committed by PMSC employees, in particular if the PMSC exercises elements of governmental authority or if it acts under the instructions or control of the State authorities.

While we talk about PMSCs, it is important to note the countries wherein they’re already in use alongside the advantages and disadvantages they have to offer. PMSCs operate in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Gulf of Aden as well as Latin America, and western governments are also increasingly hiring private contractors for domestic purposes.

Some of the advantages associated with the use of PMSCs include that they have policy flexibility and greater military agility, they minimise the casualties of the standing army, facilitate better surveillance and monitoring techniques using equipments like unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) etc. On the other hand the critics point out that private sector is incapable of handling military and that too in critical times like wars, they might indulge in human rights violations as well, alongside the “costs” they offer like reduced transparency and accountability, cost overruns etc. Therefore, we can safely conclude that the state overwhelmingly decides the military affairs and the private sector is still on fringes in this aspect and only time will tell how the private sector shapes its’ role in the military affairs of a state.

Unfortunately, the world like ever before remains susceptible to conflicts and hence the role of armed forces is crucial. Thus we can safely conclude that in times of wars and conflicts, private entities may have to offer more then they do presently.

Get The Connectere directly in your E-mail inbox !

Enter your email address to subscribe to The Connectere and receive notifications of our new content on your E-Mail