In the last two decades, States have relied on private contractors to support military operations in conflict situations. Without the necessary democratic scrutiny and public debate, private military and security companies (PMSC) have provided services that traditionally were performed by national armies and public authorities –such us interrogation of detainees, protection of military assets, training of local armed forces, collection of intelligence and the performance of defensive and even offensive military activities-.

With the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, the privatization phenomenon acquired unprecedented proportions turning the provision of security-related services into the most prosperous post-war business and consolidating the PMSC industry as a key player for future international intervention.

The increasing State reliance, as well as transnational corporations, non-governmental organizations and internationals organizations such UN and NATO, on PMSC has questioned this international phenomenon.

On the one hand,numerous human rights violations associated with some of them has generated a debate about the sort of functions that ought to or ought not to be performed by PMSCs ; the traditional principle of the State monopoly on the use of force and the implicit notion of “inherent State functions” are at the heart of this debate.

On the other hand, the lack of appropriate legal consequences for human rights violations involving private contractors and effective remedies for victims, has led to claims of lack of accountability of PMSCs and their personnel. These violations include the indiscriminate killing of civilians, torture, sexual assault and the suppression of workers rights.

The increasing use of contractors, private forces or as some would say ‘mercenaries’ makes wars easier to begin to fight –it just takes money and not the citizenry”. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.