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Taking Shots at Private Military Firms: International Law Misses its Mark (Again)

43 Pages Posted: 30 May 2012  

Kevin H. Govern

Ave Maria School of Law; California University of Pennsylvania; John Jay College

Eric C. Bales

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: May 29, 2008


Part I of this article takes a brief tour through military history on the consistent use of mercenaries through the ages, which Peter Singer illuminates masterfully in Corporate Warriors. Next, a brief overview on the binding nature (or not) of international custom and treaty is explored in Part II and then the codifications of international law are taken up in Part III, beginning with the Hague and Geneva Conventions. Several United Nations (“U.N.”) instruments are analyzed for their efficacy in changing the long-standing customary international law on the use of mercenaries and whether or not each is applicable to PMF contractors. Part IV closes out the article by discussing alternative bodies of domestic law that provide criminal accountability, including the recent case of Alaa Mohammad Ali, a civilian contractor working in Iraq who was convicted on June 23, 2008 by court martial under the recent changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (“UCMJ”).

Keywords: Private Military Firms, Private Military Corporations, Private Military Companies, Mercenaries, Mercenarism, Law of War, LOW, Law of Armed Conflict, LOAC, International Humanitarian Law, IHL

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Govern, Kevin H. and Bales, Eric C., Taking Shots at Private Military Firms: International Law Misses its Mark (Again) (May 29, 2008). Fordham International Law Journal, Vol. 32, No. 1, 2008. Available at SSRN:

Kevin H. Govern (Contact Author)

Ave Maria School of Law ( email )

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California University of Pennsylvania ( email )

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John Jay College ( email )

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Eric C. Bales

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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