Private Military Companies: Britain's Options for Regulation

Private military companies became notorious when it appeared that they may be doing governments’ dirty work for them. But even the UN has considered using them and there are fresh suggestions that Gurkha soldiers could be employed in Africa. With British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw recently warning against recruiting mercenaries for the Ivory Coast, regulation seems essential. Yet the British government has put off such a move for more consultation.

The World Today Updated 21 October 2020 Published 1 August 2003 5 minute READ

Kevin O'Brien

Senior Policy Analyst, RAND Europe

Since the Pretoria-based private military company Executive Outcomes (EO) first emerged publicly almost ten years ago, international attention has focused on the role and influence of such firms in securing, stabilising, or destabilising security worldwide.

In Britain, the 1997 Sandline and 1999 Arms to Africa affairs, in which British private military company Sandline International was involved in shipping arms to the Papua New Guinea government and providing training in Sierra Leone, demonstrated that many of these firms operate with at least the acquiescence of major western governments and their security services. This raises the question of just what government policy is towards them.

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