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Regulating the Privatisation of 'War'

The Role of the EU in Assuring Compliance with International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights


Financed by the EU under the 7th Framework Programme, this three-year research project was launched in January 2008 and concluded in August 2011. Under the supervision of the Scientific Director, Prof. Francesco Francioni, the EUI coordinated the project through the Academy of European Law in cooperation with LUISS 'Guido Carli' (Rome) and the other project partners: the University of Sheffield, School of Law – Centre of Law in its International Context; Riga Graduate School of Law; Utrecht University, School of Law; Université Panthéon-Assas (Paris II) - Centre Thucydide; and Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen.

The goal of the project was to assess the impact of the extensive use of private military companies and security companies (PMCs/PSCs) in situations of armed conflict and to examine the regulatory framework at national, European and international levels in order to assure compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights.

The 'privatisation of war' has attracted growing attention, especially since the alleged human rights abuses by employees of PMCs/PSCs in Iraq. The potential engagement of PMCs/PSCs in combat has been criticised as has the question of the legality of mercenaries. In addition, the issue of accountability of corporations and their employees has been increasingly raised. 

The aims of the PRIV-WAR project were: to promote a better understanding of the phenomenon of the privatisation of war; to clarify the status of PMC/PSC employees under international humanitarian law; to foster knowledge of the impact of private military activities on the enjoyment of human rights; to analyse the international responsibility and accountability of corporations; to review the criminal and civil liability of PMCs/PSCs and their employees for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law; to examine the existing regulation at national, European and international levels; to explore ways in which the EU could regulate or facilitate the regulation of PMCs/PSCs to assure compliance with human rights and international humanitarian law.

To this end, research was undertaken on a wide range of questions, and research results were broadly disseminated within the scientific community and beyond by means of two academic volumes, reports, publications, articles in academic journals, workshops and conferences. The project also envisaged engaging in a dialogue with stakeholders, including policymakers at the national and EU levels, human rights practitioners and organizations and the private sector.

The project formulated proposals for a satisfactory regulatory scheme within the European Union to ensure accountability and responsibility of PMCs/PSCs . The Priv-War Recommendations for EU Regulatory Action in the Field of Private Military and Security Companies and their Services were presented at the Final Conference (Brussels, 28 April 2011).


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Page last updated on 22 May 2020

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