Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence



  The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has released a Green Paper called "Private Military Companies: Options for Regulation" to solicit the views of Members of Parliament, NGOs, companies, other organisations and individuals with an interest in the options for the regulation of Private Military Companies (PMCs). Whilst there has been a growth in the PMC market, apart from the United States and South Africa, no country has produced practicable regulation to control and regulate PMC activity. Thus some PMCs continue to operate around the world unaccountable to anyone.

   In the current world climate of numerous small wars and unstable states there has been a growing demand for PMCs services, however many people and organisations still very much link them with the mercenary image of the 1960s and 1970s. Following the Sandline Affair and with no imminent prospect of any UN legislation, the British Government decided to formulate its own regulation for Private Military Companies based in Britain. The Green Paper released in February 2002 does not attempt to propose policy but states, "One of the main reasons for considering the option of a licensing regime is that it may be possible to distinguish between reputable and disreputable private sector operators, to encourage and support the former while as far as possible, eliminating the other."1


  The aim of this paper is to develop a reply to the FCOs Green Paper "Private Military Companies: Options for Regulation". This paper will consider the options for regulation and will put forward an answer to the Green Paper by the deadline 6 August 2002. This will be achieved by investigating the views of the four key stakeholders involved:

    —  Private Military and Security Companies.

    —  The United Nations.

    —  Non-Governmental Organisations and Humanitarian Aid Agencies.

    —  Other Government Departments.


  It is important to place PMCs in their correct historical context in order to determine their true nature and thus better understand the modern state response to mercenaries and the regulations and conventions adopted by countries to control or outlaw their activity.


  The vilification of mercenaries is a 20th century phenomenum; prior to this mercenaries had been routinely employed in warfare throughout history. Indeed the very earliest rulers of empires and regimes are recorded as using mercenaries, Xenephon recounted the use of 10,000 mercenaries by Cyrus, a pretender to the Persian throne in 401 BC and it is also known that Greek City states used mercenaries in the same epoch.

  In the middle ages kings and noblemen found their knights and subjects were neither willing nor obliged to fight for their rulers, conducting military expeditions abroad therefore presented acute manpower problems. For these medieval sovereigns the use of mercenaries was both a convenient and reliable solution and to meet this demand the mercenaries often combined to form "free companies". The Byzantine Emperor hired the first such company, the Grand Catalan Company, to fight the Turks. This company's soldiers were recruited from the Aragon region of Spain and commanded by a German, Roger Von Blum.

  Many view the halcyon days of organised mercenaries as coinciding with the Italian renaissance. In this period the Italian City states hired mercenary outsiders to lead and conduct military operations against their rivals. This avoided the problem for rulers of creating a powerful military leader, and therefore rival, amongst their citizens and from causing unnecessary disruption to the economy by the employment of their productive workforce as soldiers. The mercenaries who were known as "Condottieri" also brought a measure of control to the battlefield, as impartial outsiders for instance they were less concerned in achieving a senseless slaughter of enemies but more interested in simply winning and the acquisition of prisoners which of course could always be ransomed.

  Technological innovations, particularly the development of light firearms, meant that the Condottierri began to give way to national armies composed of both citizens and mercenaries. The 17th and 18th centuries witnessed many national armies supplementing their own national forces with bands of mercenaries from another country. The British Army was reinforced during the American War of Independence by the Hessian Brigade, arguably the most efficient and well trained of the German mercenary forces. Even as late as the nineteenth century the British were still engaged in the practise of recruiting mercenaries to support the war effort: In 1854 for instance Britain hired 15,600 Germans, Italians and Swiss mercenaries to fight in the Crimean War.

  By the 19th century Europe had begun to consolidate into nation states and the concept that the employment of violence was a state monopoly and not a private business opportunity took root. Nations began to impose neutrality laws forbidding their citizens to serve foreign armies and mercenaries became increasingly marginalized as politically troublesome rather than simply independent agents selling their services on the market. Nations continued to recruit foreigners into their armies but this was conducted on a much more permanent and organized basis, examples of this are the employment of Gurkhas with the British at the Treaty of Segauli in 1816, and also the Foreign Legion with the French in 1831.


  The modern perception of mercenaries has evolved since the Second World War and has been dominated by the use of mercenaries in Africa:

    "When they first appeared in Africa, these independent mercenaries hired outside the constraints of the twentieth century nation-state system and seemingly motivated solely by pecuniary interests, were seen as a shocking anachronism".2

  Some of these mercenary operations of the 1960s and 1970s involving Mad Mike Hoare, Bob Denard and Jacques Schramme were either seen as an attempt by western capitalists to retain control of a mineral rich region or as colonialists attempting to retain power. Thus Africans especially distrust private firms although numerous states and insurgents have hired them.

  In recent years there has been the evolution of PMCs, with the end of the Cold War and its consequent surplus of ex-military personnel on the market and numerous low-intensity wars following the withdrawal of superpower support. Examples of these are Sandline and Executive Outcomes (EO) who were very involved in fighting rebel forces in Sierra Leone and Angola, Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI) from the US had former Special Forces (SF) personnel training and equipping the Bosnian Federation's military force and the Vinnel Corporation currently has about one thousand men training the Saudi National Guard.


  In his 1997 report the UN Special Rapporteur on mercenaries showed his concern about the growth market in mercenary activity:

    "In what appears to be a new international trend, legally registered companies are providing security, advisory and military training to the armed forces and police of legitimate Governments. There have been complaints that some of these companies recruit mercenaries and go beyond advisory and instruction work to become involved in military combat and taking over political, economic and financial matters in the country served".3

  These firms have become known as Private Military Companies but there continues to be a debate as to whether they provide any form of mercenary activity under any existing national or international legislation. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a mercenary as "a professional soldier serving a foreign power". This is a wide definition, which would include many people engaged in legitimate activities, for example the Gurkhas in the British and Indian Armies and members of the French Foreign Legion. The Green Paper calls them 'soldiers of fortune, sometimes misguided adventurers and often disreputable thugs'. Article 47 of the 1977 First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions has six criteria that must all be met before a person can be considered a mercenary. This definition has generally been found to be impractical due to the difficulty in proving the motivation of those accused of being mercenaries. They were clearly written to target the small number of Europeans involved in Africa in the 1960s and 1970s.

  The 1989 Additional Protocol Convention moved this legislation forward by making the use of mercenaries illegal. Article 2 makes it an offence to recruit, use, and finance or train mercenaries, Article 5 binds signatories not to do the above and Article 9 obligates them to punish violations. So far only 19 countries have ratified the convention and a further 9 have signed but not ratified. Moreover it should be noted that at least 3 of the signatories, the governments of Angola, Yugoslavia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have engaged or used mercenaries or PMCs since they signed. The Organisation for African Unity (OAU) has made political declarations against mercenaries and has growing support from idealists on the African continent and a lot of support in the UN from developing countries. The 1989 Convention Ratifiers and Signatories are shown below.

Table 1


The following nineteen states have ratified the Convention:
The following nine states have signed but have yet to ratify the Convention:
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Saudi Arabia

  The Green Paper describes PMCs as companies that provide a range of services and at one extreme they can provide forces for combat. Their more customary services include advice, training, logistic support, supply of personnel for monitoring roles and demining. Their definition of Private Security Companies (PSCs) is one that provides security services abroad, for governments and for other bodies, including the UN and NGOs. A key problem for the government in drafting any future legislation will be their actual definition of PMCs as it is extremely difficult to draw a line between the work of PSCs and PMCs. In truth most security companies cover a broad spectrum and although they may have expertise in certain areas such as advice, security or even combat, they can supply any service for the right price. An example is Gurkha Security Guards in Sierra Leone who were brought in to provide security services until 1994 when they started training the local armed forces. For this dissertation and in our recommendations to the British Government, we believe that no distinction can be made between PMCs and PSCs and that they all should be considered for some form of regulation. We have therefore considered regulation of these companies from the position of lethal and non-lethal capabilities, which is whether or not their employees carry arms. It was felt that this was the key area where many agencies and individuals found it difficult to distinguish between PSCs, PMCs and mercenaries.

Table 2


Non-Lethal CapabilitiesLethal Capabilities
—Mine clearance
—Risk Consulting
—Unarmed security
—Military Training
—Military Intelligence
—Armed security
          Indutrial Sites
          Convoy Escorts
          Embassy Protection
          Anti Piracy
—Offensive Combat
—Any activity with weapons

  PMCs with lethal and non-lethal capabilities when used throughout this paper draw their distinction from the above table. The prohibitions against mercenaries were not formulated to deal with companies employed by recognised governments. Neither were they meant to take away a country's right to self-defence by recruiting foreign personnel in order to restore order or to provide security within their country. We have therefore also made a distinction between PMCs and mercenaries and in this paper we will argue that whilst PMCs may or may not necessitate greater transparency and oversight, we do not believe they should be banned for being mercenaries.

   Lt Col (Retd) T Spicer OBE, formerly of Sandline, has his own definition of mercenaries,

    "A mercenary will be an individual, recruited for a specific task. He is not part of a permanent structure . . . he subscribes to no doctrine or collective training standards and his ideas on discipline, the rule of law and human rights may well be short of those required by the Law of Armed Conflict." He then states on the other hand that "PMCs are permanent structures, corporate entities, which are run as a business. They have a clear hierarchy, are run on military lines and operate to high disciplinary standards and within the Law of Armed Conflict, with a particular concern for human rights".4

  As long as PMCs continue to work in support of sovereign states and protect the rights of the population to self-determination they should not be considered mercenaries. As long as there is war, there will be the need for military expertise, however modern PMCs have realised that their survival relies on positive perceptions and approval for their actions by their home governments and by the international community.


  The following assumptions and limitations were made when formulating this paper:

    —  Specific dispensation has been given to this project to answer the UK Green Paper rather than produce an academic dissertation based on technology, doctrine and management.

  It is desirable that those reading this paper would have previously read the Green Paper and have some knowledge about the ongoing debate and the options proposed.

    —  The paper does not look into great detail into legal complexities or contractual detail but concentrates on the practical issues of regulating PMCs.

    —  Many interviewees have only spoken to us under "Chatham House rules" and therefore their comments must remain unattributable. This detracts somewhat from the authenticity we have strived for, and some of our arguments may not appear to be reinforced by example.

    —  Only 5 weeks were available for this study.


  In examining this subject we have combined best civilian management practice with the British army's decision-making tool, the formal estimate. We have then sought to investigate all the factors, or as we have termed them, "the stakeholders" in order to develop the widest possible understanding of all the issues, including attending both Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee Hearings and attending the FCO Seminar to discuss the Green Paper at Birmingham University. We have then integrated the stakeholder opinions to produce the key features of regulation and examined these in the light of the courses of action for regulation identified by the Green Paper, and other courses of action created by the group during the research phase. We have then debated and decided on our preferred course of action and this has formed our conclusion. This research is based on a wide range of reading and interviewing, designed to show the broad base of opinions that have been gathered. After that the results of various management models used to inform the group in how to approach the problem are shown with their results.


  In the investigation of PMCs and their perspective of future UK regulation a wide spectrum of opinions were consulted. Senior representatives of PMCs who supply services across the military and security spectrum were interviewed and these included: Lt Gen (Retd) H Soyster of MPRI, Lt Col T Spicer of SCI (formally in Sandline), C Beese of ArmorGroup Services Ltd (formally known as DSL), Mr Nic van den Berg of Executive Outcomes, Sir Graham Burton of Control Risks, Mr P Brown of PBS Security and finally Mr J Wiseman of Penumbra. These people represented a reasonable cross-section of the services PMCs provide and were constructive in helping define the key areas and services that required regulation. Many contacts were established with respected academics who have written much on PMCs and several who have already replied to the Green Paper: Dr K O'Brien of RAND Europe, D Brooks from the International Peace Operations Centre in the US, C Spearin from the Centre for the International and Security Studies in Canada, and Dr C Coker from the London School of Economics were spoken to in order to gain an objective academic viewpoint.


  For the UN the most contentious issue is whether to employ PMCs or not. Debate on this subject is still in progress and there are wide differences of opinion amongst the staff in New York, the Member States and lobbyists. The debate on regulation is less controversial and there is a large degree of common ground between the various viewpoints. To analyse these views it was necessary to conduct a number of interviews with individuals who represented the differing viewpoints. These interviews therefore included senior members of UNDPKO, UNSECOORD as well as Diplomats and Military Advisers representing both developed and developing countries in the UN in New York. It was also important to ascertain the views of various lobby groups and UN "think tanks" who influence current UN thinking. Interviews were therefore held with members of the International Peace Academy and International Alert. The utility and regulation of PMCs is still a very contentious issue in the UN and for this reason many of those interviewed wished to remain off the record.


  The unique importance of capturing the views of NGOs in this debate will be discussed in the chapter on NGOs. PMCs and NGOs work next to each other in dangerous environments and NGOs are often forced to employ PMCs in order to ensure the security of themselves, their beneficiaries and their supplies. Capturing the myriad views of NGOs with differing mandates and missions is impossible, therefore having read the key texts, a representative cross-section of NGOs with specific expertise in security were interviewed. The formative texts in the NGO security debate are by Koenraad Van Brabant, Damian Lilly, Kim Richard Nossal, Chaloka Beyani and Gilles Carbonnier. To reinforce these views with practical experience Janet Lim, the head of security for the UNHCR, has been interviewed in Geneva, as well as Alexandre Faite, one of the ICRC's legal team, whose specialisation has been human rights and UN legislation. UNOCHA were also questioned. To capture the views of the NGOs at "the sharp end of conflict, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue were interviewed as well two larger mainstream NGOs, Tearfund and MSF. The NGO renowned for its security training and policy is Red R, and their head of security was interviewed. Lastly two leading consultants providing security advice to NGOs, with deep experience in the defence and aid agency worlds, Martin Read and Barney Mayhew answered questions. The subject of PMCs is still a vexed issue for many NGOs and all interviews were conducted under Chatham House rules, thus few direct quotes from interviews can reinforce this part of the argument.


  The key stakeholders within the United Kingdom were initially identified as the Government departments of FCO, MOD and DFID. It is the FCO who are exploring the various options open for the regulation of PMCs but tied in closely to that, through the Conflict Prevention Fund is DFID and the MOD. It soon became apparent, that when we looked at what it was that PMCs wanted to do, and where they wanted to do it, many more subsidiary stakeholders with critical issues had come to the fore. Within the MOD there were many interested parties, but of particular note are the UK's Defence Attaches, DESO, D Dip, the Overseas Secretariat linking in to the UK's mission in the UN in New York, the Defence Advisory Team, Cranfield University Academics, Joint Services Command and Staff College and finally the Joint Doctrine and Concepts Centre. Besides the security tasks that most PMCs want to carry out, it was also clear that some wanted to be able to supply arms. This would involve applying for export licences from the Department of Trade and Industry, compliance with EU legislation and ensuring that the companies would not fall foul of any UN mandates. Within the Government departments it proved that both DFID and MOD were positive in their outlook.


  When considering the stakeholder analysis and mapping for PMCs and the security industry it became apparent that the industry was large. In order to examine possible ways of regulating this industry it is important to recognise the key stakeholders in this field in order to give the industry the credible regulation and legislation that it requires for successful operation in the eyes of not just the Government but also the public, as this quote by Henry Mintzberg5 shows:

    "as the corporation grew to very large size, its economic actions came to have increasing social consequences. The giant, widely held corporation came increasingly under the implicit control of its managers, and the concept of social responsibility—the voluntary consideration of public social goals alongside the private economic ones—arose to provide a basis of legitimacy for their actions".


  It was important to understand early on what were the driving factors behind not only the requirements and need for PMCs, but also what critical issues lay behind the Governmental interest in regulation. Diagram 1 depicts a "Rich Picture" examining the influential organisations and their inter-relationships from within the United Kingdom. It also allows us to follow an audit trail of national resources, causes and influences against cross-departmental objectives, international impact and priorities.


  Diagram 2 gives a general overview on possible stakeholders and their impact. When identifying the stakeholders it was not enough to focus on the formal structures of the organisations that lay before us. It was necessary to have a look at informal and indirect influences as well as both inter and intra departmental relationships. This diagram imagines the stakeholders as a set of inner and outer circles. The inner circles stand for the most important stakeholders who have the highest influence, and also show how the PMC inter-relationships interact with each stakeholder.


  The final diagram is based on the "Boston Box" management tool. In this case it evaluates those departments and organisations that are critical to PMC regulatory success against those with varying degrees of interest in the proposed solution. It is necessary to keep in mind that this model is basic but it helped us identify those activities necessary for success in producing a well-informed and coherent response to the Green Paper.


  1  House of Commons Green Paper, "Private Military Companies: Options for Regulation", The Stationary Office, Feb 2002.

  2Zarate, Juan Carlos, The Emergence of a New Dog of War, Private International Security Companies, International Law and the New world Disorder', Stanford Journal for International Law, Vol 34, No 1, 1998.

  3  Isenberg D, "Regulated Private Military Companies have a role", IASNA News, March 2002.

  4  Lt Col (Retd) T Spicer OBE, "An Unorthodox Soldier", Mainstream Publishing, 1999.

  5, "Stakeholder Management"

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