The PRIV-WAR project is aimed to

• Promote a better understanding of the phenomenon of the privatisation of war

The research project will formulate a definition of PMCs/PSCs and examine the reasons why states resort to them, focusing on the nature of the functions they exercise, the definition of rules of engagement and chains of accountability. Special attention will be paid to outsourcing in the context of peace-keeping operations, against the background of the development of a European Security and Defence Policy. The project will favour comparative research in a historical perspective. 

• Clarify the legal status of PMC/PSC employees under IHL
A central question is whether PMCs/PSCs should be regarded as mercenaries, combatants or civilians. Research will also be undertaken on the concept of ‘direct participation in hostilities’ and its applicability to PMCs/PSCs.

• Foster knowledge on the impact of private military activities on the enjoyment of human rights
The project will examine the implications of the use of PMCs/PSCs for the enjoyment of human rights and document serious violations of human rights which have occurred in practice. In this context, an analysis will be made of the obligations of states under human rights law to protect human rights and to investigate and prosecute serious human rights violations, identifying how these obligations apply to the use of PMCs/PSCs. Also the role of regional and international human rights monitoring bodies will be addressed in this regard.

• Analyse the international responsibility and accountability of corporations
At the international level, the main problem is not that of a legal vacuum: what is lacking is an effective enforcement mechanism. The first crucial question is under which circumstances the conduct of PMC/PSC personnel can be attributed to states. In this regard the role of the state needs to be examined, be it as a client, host, home state or in any other relationship to the PMC/PSC’s conduct. An assessment will also be made of existing options for holding the PMC as a corporate entity responsible for serious violations of IHL or human rights. Additionally, a review of self-regulation initiatives within the PMC/PSC industry will be conducted, focusing on the legal norms to which , enforcement mechanisms and oversight provisions on which they rely.

• Review the criminal and civil liability of PMCs/PSCs and their employees for serious violations of human rights and IHL
Research will be undertaken to assess which national and/or international courts have competence over conduct which may amount to serious violations of human rights and IHL attributable to PMCs/PSCs or their personnel, and which legal norms apply.

• Examine the existing regulation at the national, European and international levels
Only a few States, including South Africa, have enacted specific regulation pertaining to the PMC/PSC industry. An analysis of the existing domestic legislation and of the current regulation at the European and international levels is a prerequisite of any discussion on future options.

• Explore ways in which the EU could regulate or facilitate the regulation of PMCs/PSCs with a view to assure compliance with human rights and IHL
The project aims to determine how best to regulate the private military and security sector through national legislation and to ensure its compliance with human rights and international humanitarian law. Some proposals for a system of registration and licensing have already been put forward: whether this constitutes an effective monitoring mechanism remains to be seen. The project will pay particular attention to the role of the European Union: although it has largely been neglected so far, the research hypothesis is that the EU should play a more active role in establishing common standards and in assuring effective monitoring .