Why Are Mercenaries Legal

More recent­ly, in 2020, at least seve­ral hundred mer­ce­na­ries from the Rus­si­an Wag­ner Group are fight­ing along­side the war­lord, Gene­ral Kha­li­fa Haft­ar, whom the Rus­si­an govern­ment sup­ports. [182] Wag­ner Group mer­ce­na­ries arri­ved in Libya in late 2019. [183] The Wag­ner group distin­gu­is­hed its­elf as sni­pers, and one of the results of their arri­val was a rapid increase in the num­ber of sni­pers kil­led on the ene­my side hol­ding Tri­po­li. [183] In respon­se, the Tur­ki­sh govern­ment hired 2,000 Syri­an mer­ce­na­ries to fight for the oppo­sing fac­tion it sup­ports in the Liby­an civil war. [182] The rise of clan­des­ti­ne pri­va­te war­fa­re in the midd­le of the cen­tu­ry led to Gen­e­va Pro­to­cols I and II in 1977, which ban­ned mer­ce­na­ries. The main objec­tion is that they were sta­te­l­ess war­ri­ors, fight­ing for money rather than natio­nal ideo­lo­gy. The most wide­ly used defi­ni­ti­on of mer­cena­ry in inter­na­tio­nal law deri­ves from artic­le 47 of Pro­to­col I to the Gen­e­va Con­ven­ti­ons, which pro­vi­des that argu­ments against chan­ging the defi­ni­ti­on of “defence ser­vice” in the Inter­na­tio­nal Traf­fic in Arms Regu­la­ti­ons may ran­ge from sub­stan­ti­ve con­cerns to tech­ni­cal objec­tions. First, some may ask, shouldn‘t the main objec­ti­ve be to adopt a sepa­ra­te law incor­po­ra­ting the United Nati­ons Mer­cena­ry Con­ven­ti­on into natio­nal legis­la­ti­on to pro­hi­bit mer­cena­ry acti­vi­ties (or fol­low the exam­p­le of France or Ger­ma­ny)? It was pre­fera­ble to enact a new law pro­hi­bi­ting or rest­ric­ting mer­ce­na­ries rather than resort­ing to admi­nis­tra­ti­ve or regu­la­to­ry pro­ce­du­res. For exam­p­le, look at the num­ber of U.S. Penal Code laws pas­sed to com­ply with other UN reso­lu­ti­ons or trea­ties, such as: tho­se that pro­hi­bit the pro­duc­tion and use of bio­lo­gi­cal and che­mi­cal wea­pons. Later, in 1966 and 1967, for­mer Tshom­bé­an mer­ce­na­ries and Katan­ge­se gen­dar­mes orga­ni­zed the mer­cena­ry muti­nies. The com­pa­ny has never ful­ly trus­ted the loyal­ty of its sepoys.

[97] The com­pa­ny had its own offi­cers‘ school at the Addis­com­be Mili­ta­ry Semi­na­ry. The armies of the com­pa­ny were trai­ned in the Wes­tern style and by the end of the 18th cen­tu­ry their tro­ops were con­side­red equal to any Euro­pean army. [98] Sim­ply put, a mer­cena­ry is an armed civi­li­an paid for mili­ta­ry ope­ra­ti­ons in a for­eign con­flict zone. For exam­p­le, civi­li­ans who car­ry out direct actions or train tro­ops in for­eign con­flict zones are mer­ce­na­ries becau­se they per­form uni­que mili­ta­ry func­tions. Fede­ral Express, a cou­rier com­pa­ny that deli­vers a packa­ge to Kabul during the war in Afgha­ni­stan, is not a mer­cena­ry com­pa­ny becau­se logi­sti­cal sup­p­ly is not an exclu­si­ve­ly mili­ta­ry task. Only pri­va­ti­zed mili­ta­ry tasks deser­ve the label of “mer­ce­na­ries”. How did we get here? Cer­tain­ly, the world‘s only super­power does not need lea­sed wea­pons. It has it all: the best tro­ops, trai­ning, tech­no­lo­gy, equip­ment and resour­ces. But he doesn‘t have the will, and that‘s why he turns to mili­ta­ry con­trac­tors. Out­sour­cing allows blood­less wars, at least from the customer‘s point of view. Like super tech­no­lo­gy, mer­ce­na­ries are a crutch for a nati­on that wants to fight but doesn‘t want to bleed.

This did not hap­pen inten­tio­nal­ly, but rather by chan­ce. The­re has been an unex­pec­ted col­li­si­on bet­ween U.S. dome­stic poli­tics and the purely vol­un­t­a­ry mili­ta­ry, a source of natio­nal pri­de. When the U.S. ente­red the wars in Iraq and Afgha­ni­stan, the White House assu­med they would be brief con­flicts. “Five days, five weeks or five months, but it cer­tain­ly won‘t take any lon­ger,” Defen­se Secre­ta­ry Donald Rums­feld said on the eve of the Iraq war. The U.S. mili­ta­ry can “get the job done and finish it quick­ly.” 25 More than a deca­de later, Ame­ri­ca is still ent­an­gled in both places, unwil­ling to admit defeat but unable to cla­im vic­to­ry. 11 examp­les of major batt­les are Wei­ßer Berg (1620), Brei­ten­feld (1631), Lüt­zen (1632), Nörd­lin­gen (1634), Witt­stock (1636) and Rocroi (1643). The armies con­sis­ted main­ly of for­eign mer­ce­na­ries. For exam­p­le, the majo­ri­ty of the Swe­dish army were mer­ce­na­ries, a con­sidera­ble num­ber, sin­ce Swe­den was a mili­ta­ry super­power at the time and King Gustavus Adolp­hus was one of the gre­at inno­va­tors of maneu­ver warfare.

In the Batt­le of Brei­ten­feld, the Swe­dish army was only 20% Swe­des, in the Batt­le of Lut­zen it was 18%. It was typi­cal of the time. See Geoffrey Par­ker, Euro­pe in Cri­sis, 1598–1648 (Oxford: Wiley-Black­well, 2001), p. 17. Around the same time, Nic­colò Machia­vel­li, in his book of poli­ti­cal advice The Prin­ce, oppo­sed the use of mer­cena­ry armies. His reaso­ning was that sin­ce the only moti­va­ti­on of mer­ce­na­ries is their sala­ry, they will not be incli­ned to take the kind of risks that can turn the tide of a batt­le, but they can cost them their lives. He also noted that a mer­cena­ry who fai­led was obvious­ly not good, but a suc­cessful mer­cena­ry could be even more dan­ge­rous. He astu­te­ly poin­ted out that a suc­cessful mer­cena­ry army no lon­ger needs its employ­er if it is mili­ta­ri­ly more powerful than its sup­po­sed supe­ri­or. This explains the fre­quent and vio­lent betra­y­al that cha­rac­te­ri­zed the rela­ti­ons bet­ween mer­ce­na­ries and cli­ents in Ita­ly, sin­ce neither side trus­ted the other. He belie­ved that citi­zens with a real con­nec­tion to their home­land would be more moti­va­ted to defend it and thus make much bet­ter sol­diers. The Inter­na­tio­nal Con­ven­ti­on against the Recruit­ment, Use, Finan­cing and Trai­ning of Mer­ce­na­ries (United Nati­ons Mer­cena­ry Con­ven­ti­on) ente­red into force in 2001.

As noted during the deba­te on this reso­lu­ti­on, the Con­ven­ti­on repre­sen­ted an important effort by the inter­na­tio­nal com­mu­ni­ty to limit the harm and inju­ry used by for­eign figh­ters to sup­port vio­lent con­flicts for civi­li­an popu­la­ti­ons. In many ways, this is ana­log­ous to the 1982 United Nati­ons Con­ven­ti­on on the Law of the Sea, which, among other things, pro­hi­bits pira­cy, whe­ther spon­so­red by the Sta­te or by irre­gu­lar sup­port­ers. The United Nati­ons Mer­cena­ry Con­ven­ti­on sta­tes that the use and finan­cing of mer­ce­na­ries in armed con­flict is a cri­mi­nal offence. The United Sta­tes, Rus­sia and Chi­na have not rati­fied the trea­ty, which has been rati­fied by 35 mem­ber sta­tes. The United Sta­tes did not rati­fy the trea­ty in part becau­se it belie­ved that pre­vious UN pro­to­cols and reso­lu­ti­ons on the sub­ject con­tai­ned dif­fe­rent, if not con­tra­dic­to­ry, defi­ni­ti­ons and pos­si­ble appli­ca­ti­ons. In addi­ti­on, some count­ries argued that pri­va­te mili­ta­ry com­pa­nies should fall under the defi­ni­ti­on of mer­cena­ry. Final­ly, given that only 35 count­ries have rati­fied the Con­ven­ti­on, the ques­ti­on ari­ses whe­ther its rati­fi­ca­ti­on would have a sub­stan­ti­al and signi­fi­cant effect on the crea­ti­on of a reco­gni­zed norm of inter­na­tio­nal law. As a result, the U.S. govern­ment may have sim­ply deci­ded that inac­tion was the best way for­ward, at least until a majo­ri­ty of other count­ries (and major powers) agreed to ban mer­ce­na­ries. [Simon Mann], the Bri­tish lea­der of a group of 67 alle­ged mer­ce­na­ries accu­sed of plot­ting a coup in Equa­to­ri­al Gui­nea, was sen­ten­ced to seven years in pri­son. The other pas­sen­gers were jai­led for 12 months for vio­la­ting immi­gra­ti­on laws, while the two pilots were sen­ten­ced to 16 months.

The court also orde­red the sei­zu­re of Mann‘s Boe­ing 727, worth $3 mil­li­on and $180,000 found on board. The law that appli­es most to indi­vi­du­al mer­ce­na­ries is the Arms Export Con­trol Act (“AECA,” 22 U.S.C.