In recent years, the “privatisation of war” has attracted growing attention: several states have resorted to private firms in situations of armed conflict. These firms offer logistical support, security and crime prevention services, military advice and training. Their potential engagement in combat has raised questions under international humanitarian law (IHL). The notion of mercenaries has resurfaced and the legality of private actors has been questioned. In addition, the issue of accountability of the PMCs/PSCs, as corporations and of their employees individually, has emerged in recent practice.
Although the participation of private actors in warfare is not a new phenomenon, an initial concern motivating commentators and activists was that private companies operate in a legal vacuum. Whilst there is growing consensus that the situation actually more resembles a complex patchwork of norms, the key issue remains of whether and how these existing norms can be effectively applied and whether they need to be supplemented with new norms.