Efforts to establish regulatory frameworks for private military/security companies (PMSCs), driven by public security concerns as well as private interests of the companies themselves, have yielded a number of soft law instruments. Unfortunately, most of these instruments are conditioned by the underlying interests of their promulgators and have therefore failed to establish universally acceptable regulatory standards. And because they do not constitute regimes of binding law and lack the goodwill of states, their enforceability has been seriously undermined.
To address the apparent lacunae in PMSC regulation, the UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries as a Means of Violating and Impeding the Exercise of Rights of Peoples to Self-Determination has prepared a Draft International Convention on the Regulation, Oversight and Monitoring of Private Military and Security Companies, which it is now calling on states to endorse. This article assesses the strengths and weaknesses of this draft law. It critically evaluates how the proposed law deals with key issues which have been at the centre of the regulation debate concerning PMSCs such as state responsibility, human rights protection, the contractual rights and obligations of parties, operative standards and modes of enforcement. The article contends that despite the problems which it identifies, the draft law still offers the best promise for regulating PMSCs compared to all the soft law mechanisms that are currently in place.