PROBLEMS OF DEFINING PRIVATE MILITARY
31. A number of labels have been applied to the companies
supplying military services. The Green Paper points out that "the
terms 'mercenary,' 'private military company'(PMC) and 'private
security company' (PSC) cover a wide range of different people,
corporations and activities."
Doug Brooks, President of the International Peace Operations Association,
prefers the term "military service providers" to describe
"lawful profit-seeking companies with profit making structures...
[providing] the whole gamut of legitimate services that were formerly
provided by national armies."
Tim Spicer has argued that it is possible to distinguish private
military companies from mercenaries: the latter have "no
common doctrine ... no common training standards, they'll work
for the highest bidder," whereas PMCs are "formed bodies
that have a sort of corporate entity" and will "only
work for the good guys."
This itself raises the question of definition of who are the "good
32. While there have been numerous attempts to define
the different kinds of enterprise which operate in the sector,
the Green Paper rightly concludes that, in practice, the categories
of company will often merge into each other.
Furthermore, all companies evolve according to circumstances,
making consistent categorization of them as entities very difficult.
33. Denis MacShane told us that "Britain would
like to see not so much a correct definition of what is and is
not a private military company [as] what it can and cannot do."
We agree that a more productive approach than distinguishing between
acceptable and unacceptable categories of company would be to
distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable activities. Some
activities could be prohibited in all circumstances. Others, because
of their risky and potentially violent nature, need to be regulated.
Clarity over which activities are permitted and which are proscribed
appears to us to be absolutely essential for any legislative measures.
DEFINING LEGITIMATE AND ILLEGITIMATE
34. One option that has been proposed is that PMCs
be prohibited from direct participation in combat activities.
Defining the point at which a company becomes directly involved
in combat is difficult. The problems were highlighted in evidence
submitted by Tim Spicer, who described the "complexity of
a situation where a security company ... is providing expatriate
armed guards for a strategic installation, such as an oil well,
jointly owned by the local government and an international oil
company, in a country where there is a conflict with a rebel movement.
If the guards protect the installation with their weapons against
the rebelsare they fighting for the Government and thus
supporting the war effort?"
35. Establishing a prohibition on armed combat operations
might be further complicated by the fact that companies are sometimes
hired by states to train nationals for the armed forces. Drawing
the line between training for military planning and the planning
itself would be difficult. National armed forces have been responsible
for many of the worst human rights abuses of the last century,
and it is possible that at some stage a British company, licensed
to conduct military training, might train a national army which
then went on to commit such atrocities. The Government would have
to consider how to address this question if it chose to prohibit
combat activities, weighing the possible costs against the benefits
that military training can have on the standards of national armed
36. Further, ancillary assistance such as medical
support, reconnaissance, battlefield supply and vehicle maintenance
is an integral aspect of combat operations. Finding a satisfactory
practical and legal definition will be far from straightforward.
37. If the Government were to choose to prohibit
participation in combat operations by PMCs, one possibility would
be to require a company to be able to demonstrate that any action
taken was only in self defence, as a reaction to imminent threats.
Kevin O'Brien points out the difficulties of drawing a line between
defensive and offensive actions, when he addresses the question
of "offensive defence." By this he means "attacks
by opponent forces on areas/individuals/installations protected
by a PMC/PSC" leading to the PMC "pursuing the opponent
forces away from the site of the attackor ... engaging
in pre-emptive offensive measures against opponent forces for
38. ArmorGroup distinguishes between "legitimate
commercial security and/or military support services, and the
supply of uniformed and armed soldiers for the expressed purpose
of engaging in combat to alter a prevailing political or military
balance. It is, after all, the latter that gives rise to public
expression of concern."
The company has drawn up a code of conduct for its own operations,
which specifies that its employees "may not bear arms except
for those carried for personal self defence with the agreement
of and possession of a licence from the host government."
The code also specifies that the company's business is "one
dedicated to defensive measures."
These appear to us to offer the possibility of drawing a workable
distinction between combat and non-combat activities.
39. Beyond this distinction between combat and non-combat
activities, other PMC operations might be restricted according
to an appropriately amended version of the consolidated EU and
national arms export licensing criteria against which decisions
on the granting or withholding of arms export licences are currently
made. These Consolidated
Criteria (as spelled out in greater detail in the Annual Report
on Strategic Export Controls)
|One: ||Respect for the UK's international obligations and commitments (the Government will not issue a licence where this would be incompatible with, in particular, UN and OSCE embargoes, EU common positions and embargoes, and non-proliferation agreements).
|Two:||Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in destination countries (the Government will not issue a licence if there is a clear risk that the equipment will be used for internal repression; and will exercise special caution and vigilance before issuing a licence for relevant types of equipment for use in countries where serious violations of human rights have been established to have occurred) .
|Three:||The internal situation of destination countries (the Government will not issue a licence for exports which would promote or prolong armed conflicts or aggravate existing tensions or conflicts).
|Four:||Preservation of regional peace, security and stability (the Government will not issue a licence if there is a clear risk that the intended recipient would use the proposed export aggressively against another country or to assert by force a territorial claim).
|Five: ||The security of the UK and its overseas territories, its European and other allies (the Government will take account of the effect of the proposed export on the defence and security interests of the UK and such other countries described, while such considerations cannot override the application of the first four criteria).
|Six:||The behaviour of the buyer country with regard to the international community, particularly in relation to terrorism, unsuitable alliances and respect for international commitments and law (the Government, in deciding whether to issue a licence, will take account of the record of the proposed recipient country in relation to such factors).
|Seven:||The risk of diversion to undesirable destinations (the legitimate defence and security interests of the destination country, its technical capability to use the equipment, and the efficacy of its export controls will be considered before the Government issues a licence, especially in relation to the risk of the export falling into the hands of terrorists).
|Eight:||The compatibility of the arms exports with the recipient country's technical and economic capacity, taking into account the legitimate needs for security and self-defence (the Government will take into account whether the proposed export would seriously undermine the economy or seriously hamper the sustainable development of the recipient country).
Green Paper para. 3. Back
Doug Brooks, 'Hope for a hopeless continent: mercenaries,' Traders:
Journal for the South African Region, July-October 2000, cit.
Ev 79. Back
Cit. Ev 79. Back
International Alert, for example, defines private security companies
as those which are "predominantly concerned with crime prevention
and public order concerns: they might provide private guard services
for prisons, airports, installations, and private individuals."
Private military companies are defined as those that "operate
in conflict situations and supply services that might be considered
to be of a military nature, in that they would have an impact
on the local conflict." ArmorGroup state that they are "aware
that a great many media reporters and academics earn their living
and their educational qualifications through the pursuit of 'mercenary
matters.'" They recommend that the Government "Avoid
expending valuable time and resource endeavouring to define terms
the like of 'mercenary' or 'PMC when a thousand journalists and
ten thousand academics will continue to do it for themselves."
See Ev 66. Back
Green Paper para. 16. Back
International Alert propose a prohibition of "direct participation
in hostilities," in Regulating private military companies:
options for the UK Government, page 35, (ISBN: 1-898702-07-3). Back
See Ev 1. Back
Tim Spicer pointed out (Ev 1) that "training and supervision
of military operations can raise the standard of human rights
awareness and behaviour," and we accept that this is true
in many cases. See also para. 75 below. Back
See Ev 53. Back
See Ev 66. Back
These have been applied by the Government with effect from 26
October 2000. Back
See Eighth Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session
2001-2002, Strategic Export Controls: Annual Report for 2000,
Licensing Policy and Prior Parliamentary Scrutiny, HC 718,
pp. 344-347. Back
The international commitments in force in 2000 are set out in
Appendix D of the Eighth Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee,
Session 2001-2002, Strategic Export Controls: Annual Report
for 2000, Licensing Policy and Prior Parliamentary Scrutiny,
HC 718, pp. 326-329. Back