This article has been written by Sowbhagyalaxmi S Hegde, pursuing Diploma in Advanced Contract Drafting, Negotiation and Dispute Resolution and has been edited by Oishika Banerji (Team Lawsikho). 

This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.​​ 


A rise in global conflicts and the engagement of military forces, the modern world has a propensity to respond to all international and intranational problems. Internal issues can occasionally cause disturbance to the maintained international peace, but in order to prevent this, international laws need follow-up. Governments, global businesses, and international organisations are therefore very interested in growing the private military industry. Although Private Military Contract (PMC) members vary from conventional mercenaries and are employed by legitimate corporate businesses, they are nonetheless engaged in accordance with the law. As PMCs conduct business globally and is permitted to operate autonomously, their main disadvantage is a lack of paperwork that seriously undermines the effectiveness of the whole contract. This article is owed to the concept of PMC and its scope in international law. 

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All you need to know about private military contractors

A Private Military Contract, commonly referred to as Private Military Companies, is a legitimate business that pursues financial benefit rather than political ends. PMCs ranges widely from small consulting firms to significant international conglomerates. A large & lucrative global security has emerged as a result of the reform of the state military strategy and budget, which has been encouraged by a larger trend of economic globalisation. The first PMC was formed during World War II, specifically in 1939, from the private military, which in fact has grown rapidly due to the change in geopolitical structure. Seeing the growth of private military and security firms, even the government made the key choice to privatise security and defence-related tasks.

If we now take a closer look at private military companies, we will see that they are the businesses that offer specialised services for use during times of war and conflict, such as military training exercises, strategic planning, information gathering, administrative and logistical support, as well as training and maintenance.

Are private military contractors more cost-effective than the military

It has a contradictory claim that the PMC is more cost-effective than the standing army because: 

  1. The government does not have to provide housing, healthcare, or pensions;
  2. The PMC is paid less than the standing army is;
  3. There are no costs associated with long-term military capacity, maintenance, or the “Buyouts” that frequently occur when the military is subject to further cuts.
  4. The capacity to grow the size of the military while carrying out crucial non-combat duties.

Although PMCs commonly serves in national militaries, they obtain a state-funded education, but when they go on to higher-paying positions, this education essentially serves as money for PMC operations rather than serving the interests of the country. Notwithstanding the fact that PMC is a party to the contract and has the power to alter any meaningful advantages. So, it is quite challenging to assess how much more cost-effective PMC is than standing armies.

Why are international laws necessary to be applied to private military contractors

PMC also has relations to several treaties and customary laws, some of which include;

  1. Human Rights: When establishing any law to safeguard its citizens from human rights breaches perpetrated by domestic or foreign PMCs, a nation may use the authority afforded to it by international human rights treaties to report and register individual complaints.
  2. Criminal law: The International Criminal Courts (ICC) only have worldwide jurisdiction over a small number of crimes, and even then, only against specific individuals, not against the organisations they are employed by. Hence, its authority is severely constrained to the identified parties & the offence.
  3. State Accountability: According to the International Law Commission’s Articles on State Accountability, states are held liable under international customary law for any acts committed by non-state actors acting on their behalf. Therefore, the state is held accountable for all of the PMC’s actions. The only difficulty, though, is that governmental responsibility does not include personal accountability.
  4. International Humanitarian Law (IHL): IHL lays forth similar principles that are highly specific to the position of some PMC employees in a conflict, but only when there is an interstate or civil war. If the needs of the citizens have been met together with those of the military troops, this PMC personnel have the same status as official soldiers when it comes to becoming prisoners of war. As a result, they are not afforded the same protections as regular citizens and may face legal action from the enemy state.
  5. Mercenaries: To be incorporated into national legislation, the terms of the 1989 international agreement prohibiting the recruitment, use, funding, and training of mercenaries must be adopted by the states. Just a few states have ratified the treaty because it provides an imprecise definition of mercenaries.

An overview of international regulations for private military contractors

Generally, a number of suggestions to regulate PMC’s behaviour have been made. The same has been said that it has been forbidden for those specific behaviours. Opponents countered that since PMC often satisfies government demands, the state is not keen to forbid any of its operations.  It also implies that nations can end their long-standing monopoly on the export of goods connected to the armed forces. Others have also suggested a convention that would be more clear about the need for monitoring and controlling, and that convention would include things like:

Ø  Legislative & independent supervision of PMC services.

Ø   Licensing of the descriptive services provided by PMC.

Ø  Notification before bidding.

Ø  Registration of PMC workers.

Ø  Minimal regulatory framework with regard to the issue are all required.

Although it would be difficult to police such programs because they are voluntary, the national authorities, who would be held accountable for their own PMCS, are the ones who provide the guarantee. Thus, it may be useful in controlling the national concerns that, if not regulated, would pose difficulties for international agreements.

India and private military contractors : an insight

Recently, a new recruiting program for the Indian military services, named, Agniveers has been unveiled. This squad has been carefully chosen for the army services and is well-trained, disciplined, and motivated with expertise using weapons, etc. They won’t have a job for long, have to be at least 21 years, and have no pension plans, but when we compare them to workers with similar potentials, such as Agniveer, they retire at age 35 and have a pension in their possession. 

If 4500 Agniveers are hired per year, then the market will have 3 lakhs Agniveers who are on average 27 years old after 10 years. As there would be no alternative employment opportunities, these trained individuals, who are virtually all beyond the age of 21, cannot be reinstated as security guards. Due to their high potential and existing military training, as well as their physical and mental stability, they have access to a new market known as the private military contract. 

In the long term, India, which has corporate influence over the government, may choose to hire an outside provider of military services, where this Agniveer will be of maximum use. This announcement should thus be viewed as the. Therefore, it is important to view this declaration as a proactive first step in avoiding the dangerous idea of outsourcing military functions.


Private military contract services are provided by a private company that charges a fee for security or armed defence services. Typically, military services have been provided on a private contract. Due to the fact that it is a private force that has operated for commercial ends and has potential on a global scale. The demand for a force is growing quickly. As the PMC in recent armed conflict develops, the perception that public armed forces are more efficient and suitable for the military and security is developing. Nonetheless, the current private military corporations are in the same position as their militaries in this global peacekeeping mission. However, even though this might make it more difficult for a nation to put an end to violent crimes and ensure that they are punished, increasing the outsourcing of military and security responsibilities to PMC hasn’t made it impossible for governments to put an end to violent crimes in the open or rendered international law irrelevant in any governmental framework. In order to oversee the private military contract while utilising them in conflicts, the government. So, it is the duty of every state to serve as a middleman for the regulation of PMC under international law.


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