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School of Law

Nika Salamunić


PhD Student


Thesis title

International Legal Responsiblity for Private Military and Security Companies



Private military and Security Companies (PMSC) are the key player in modern wars. This thesis looks into how international law has followed this development in regulating responsibility.

PMSC are hired by different hiring parties to perform different war related operations. They provide various services, from no-combatant to direct participation in hostilities. This thesis focuses only on the latter. It explores how international responsibility for violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law by PMSC is attributed and whether states can avoid responsibility by hiring PMSC. The thesis also looks into PMSC as a necessity for warfare and the positive impact of the PMSC industry as an option for states to carry out necessary military missions that would not be possible with the state army.

There is a strong movement to equate PMSC with mercenaries, which is disagreed with in this thesis as regulating PMSC under the Mercenary Convention would offer more room for abuse than it would solutions. The last notable contribution towards an international legal framework on PMSC was in 2008 by the Montreux Document, an initiative by the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross, that involved industry representatives, academics and Non-Governmental Organisations in the drafting process. The Montreux Document was intended as a basis for a future legal framework, which has not been created yet. The lack of international law that would address PMSC related matters directly, leaves international responsibility dependant on the possible application of existing international law. The lack of regulation, along with the secretive nature of PMSC work, opens the possibility for abuse of the law. An example is the states’ reliance on PMSC in conducting high risk operations, because private hire attracts less attention to the state. However, the lack of regulation by itself could be a lesser challenge to justice than the interest states have in relying on private hire without creating a lex specialis in this area. The thesis clarifies whether the statement that states are using PMSC to conduct military missions that are either illegal or politically delicate, can be supported with findings on state responsibility under international law. After providing this analysis, it makes suggestions for changes of international law with taking into account the positive implications of private hire, and challenging the demonised perception of PMSC.

To do so, it looks at international law and relevant cases and relevant academic work. The research is mostly legal, but, as it revolves around international law, it enters the area of global politics and international relations where this is required to answer the research question. The findings of this research not only provide much needed clarity on the attribution of responsibility for PMSC, but also offer an insight into topics that are mostly overseen, but necessary for a just system of international law (specifically, the necessity of PMSC participation in modern wars). Finally, this research will offer a better understanding of how modern wars are waged, ultimately contributing towards what will one day result in less violence globally.


Nika is a second year PhD Candidate at Queen Mary University of London, where she also completed her LLM in Public International Law in 2019. She holds an Undergraduate Degree in Law from the University of Maribor, Slovenia. She is currently employed by the QM School of Law as a Graduate Student Advisor. Nika is also the Assistant Editor for the QM Law Journal. During her time as a PhD Candidate she completed a Mini Pupillage at 7 Bedford Row, an internship at the International Bar Association and Revizija d.o.o., an auditing firm in Slovenia.


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