Ius Gentium

University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for International and Comparative Law Fellows discuss international and comparative legal issues


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The Law is Lacking: How PMSCs are Able to Circumvent National and International Law, Part II

Lindsay Stallings

The law that governs private military security contractors in times of armed conflict is, at the same time, both too broad and too narrow. Historically in most of its legal instruments, international humanitarian law (IHL) has addressed the role of mercenaries in armed conflict. The Hague Conventions of 1907, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the 1977 Additional Protocols all speak to the protections for mercenaries in armed conflict.[1]  Most specifically, the International Criminal Court states that they do not hold any jurisdiction over the “crime of mercenarism”.[2] With the increased incorporation of private military security contractors in conflicts around the world, this historical approach needs to be revisited and we need to determine, as an international community, the legal rights and regulations that bind PMSCs. 

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Today, PMSCs are largely self-regulated. They set company-specific standards for themselves and proceed with carrying out their contracted mission. To be clear, the parts of IHL that references mercenaries does apply, in large part, to the activities of PMSCs; and further, it provides a launching point for determining where the responsibility lays for the actions of PMSCs. It does not provide a law by which PMSCs must abide by however. They exist in a legal limbo, both on an international and a national level. In the US, PMSCs do not fully fall within the parameters of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ),[3] as they are not active duty military, they will likely not become subject to laws of the “Host Nation” as that requires consent by the “Sending State”[4] – something that the US would refrain from for many reasons, and they fall out of reach of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000 (MEJA) as it applies only to Department of Defense contractors.[5]

This legal hole leaves the international community with a large problem, who and how are these important armed conflict actors going to be held responsible for violations of IHL?

There are multiple examples that highlight the need for this question to be answered; one of the most intricate is the inspiration for these posts. The former Blackwater PMSCs who fired upon and killed 17 Iraqis in 2007 fall just outside of the parameters of all applicable law. We can analyze the situation moving from US law to international law and see how important it has become to reign in the activities of these non-state actors.

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Self-regulation doesn’t always work. t has become clear throughout the investigation of this incident that Blackwater was a troubled company. Many PMSCs are former military, specifically special operations, and have a strong sense of duty to their country and their cause. The Blackwater CEO at the time had begun to make changes in the company, demanding all employees declare their loyalty to just him. This is just one example of why self-regulation is not the sole solution to this legal struggle.

Moving to the next level of law, trying PMSCs under US criminal law poses distinct constitutional issues as well as practical investigatory and evidentiary issues. A crime committed outside of the US is difficult to investigate and creates issues when trying to preserve the integrity of the evidence across such geographic expanses. In that same vein, allowing for the Host State to prosecute crimes committed by PMSCs in their territory poses even more practical issues. Many times, Host State governments and court systems are ill equipped to handle the situation or are corrupt. In this specific situation concerning Blackwater, the US was not going to allow the Iraqi government that level of unchecked power over US citizens.

Moving to the next level, the UCMJ covers only civilians accompanying US armed forces in contingency operations.[6] This provides jurisdiction for the US Armed Forces to prosecute contractors for criminal acts committed in the course of their operations. Practically, however, the Department of Defense has failed to publish the regulations guiding Judge Advocates Generals so they can properly proceed with prosecuting contractors under the new UCMJ.[7] Again, this legal solution is also not enough.F546ED2D-F118-47E6-9719-BBB3041D7DB7

Moving into international law, the Hague Conventions of 1907 discusses the implications of mercenary, not PMSC, activity on neutral states. If a state is neutral in a conflict, they are not permitted to allow recruiting or other mercenary activity to occur in their territory.[8] Additionally, in the Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions (1977), Article 47(1) states that individuals who are found to be a mercenary would be deprived the rights of the combatant or prisoner-of-war status. Finally, the Rome Statute specifically states that the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction over the “crime of mercenarism”.[9]

Looking at just these few sources of legal authority governing current PMSC activities, it is clear that the facts of each instance of PMSC criminal behavior must be creatively applied to the law to ensure accountability. In the case of the former Blackwater employees, the legal case encountered all of the presumed legal difficulties; who, where, how, when? A solution, seven years later, as stated in my first post, likely put more of a diplomatic strain on the relationship between the US and Iraq.

It is a call for more of an international law solution for the growing PMSC presence in international conflicts. It is a call we cannot ignore as more and more PMSCs participate in conflicts globally.   

Lindsay Stallings is third year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law, planning to graduate in May 2015 with a J.D. and concentration in International Law. She graduated from The Ohio State University in June of 2011 with a Bachelors of Science in Political Science with minors in Sociology and International Studies. She has also studied  Spanish and Arabic language and culture extensively. While at The Ohio State University she was a member of the International Affairs Scholars program, through which she studied abroad in Bulgaria. She was active in the Undergraduate Student Government and was a member of various academic and student life university-level committees.

Her primary interests are international law, national security, and U.S. Military and diplomatic policies. Through her coursework and relationships with our international law faculty she has developed a more focused interest in the policies surrounding international conflict and the capabilities of international courts. Lindsay currently serves as the Careers Director on the International Law Society and is a Staff Editor on the Journal of International Law. Her legal coursework and extracurricular activities have given her the opportunity to mold her passion for cultural studies and problem solving into an exciting international legal career.

[1] Katherine Fallah, Corporate actors: the legal status of mercenaries in armed conflict,

[2] Id. At 610 (articles 5, 121, and 123 of the Rome Statute do indicate that the question of jurisdiction can be revisited if there is consideration of the definition of “aggression” by states parties.)

[3] GWLR

[4] GWLR 1312

[5] GWLR 1311

[6] 10 U.S.C. § 802(a)(10) (2006).

[7] GSLR 1314; see also Memorandum from Gordon England, Deputy Sec’y of Def., to Secretaries of the Military Departments, et al. (Sept. 25, 2007) available at http://www.aschq.army.mil/gc/files/Dep-SecDef%20Memo%20Mgt%20of%20Contractors%2025Sep07.pdf.

[8] Hague Convention (V) respecting the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers and Persons in Case of War on Land, of 18 October 1907 (Hague Convention V).

[9] Rome Statute

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Sweet Home Alabama: How “Amendment One” Will Cause Problems for Alabama Courts

Justin Tepe

On November 4, 2014, Alabama voters passed an amendment to their state constitution that prohibits “the application of foreign law in violation of rights guaranteed natural citizens by the United States and Alabama Constitutions, and the statutes, laws, and public policy thereof, but without application to business entities.”[1] This amendment is problematic though, as it not only will potentially be struck down as unconstitutional but also has the potential to affect international dealings between residents of Alabama.

Alabama-sharia-ban

The bill proposing the amendment was sponsored by Alabama State Senator Gerald Allen. In 2011, Senator Allen sponsored a similar bill, but it was withdrawn prior to being placed on the ballot. The prior bill, titled the Sharia Law Amendment, suggested that Alabama courts should not be permitted to apply Sharia (Islamic law) in particular.[2] Perhaps significant in the Senator’s decision to withdraw the bill was the fact that in November of 2010, the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma held that a similar state statute that forbade state courts from applying Sharia law was unconstitutional under the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment.[3] This time, however, the Senator’s bill excludes any mention of a particular sect, cultural group, religion, or set of specific laws that the amendment proposes to exclude from judicial consideration.

While it is surely not the intention of any legislator or proponent of this bill to discriminate against any foreign law or religion, this amendment warrants a closer look…just to make sure. Birmingham attorney Eric Johnston drafted the bill for Senator Allen, and stated that his goal was to “’just do something legal, not political.’”[4] But in the same breath, Mr. Johnston stated that “‘Women’s rights are compromised by Sharia rights if a lawyer in a custody case says, ‘Islam requires you to do this.’”[5] I’ll discuss more of the legal implications below, but this has hints of the same discrimination that was deemed unconstitutional in Awad v. Ziriax. Despite the fact that this amendment does not explicitly state that Islamic law will be banned from state courts, the decision in Awad hinged on the fact that by disallowing a party’s choice of law (namely, Sharia law), the individual is subject to “official condemnation [which] will result in a stigma attaching to his person, relegating him to an ineffectual position within the political community, and causing him injury.”[6] The court in Awad went on to say that the harm that the plaintiff would have suffered was not merely produced by “observation of conduct with which one disagrees”, but was “produced by government condemnation of one’s own religion or endorsement of another’s in one’s own community….”[7]

Sharia-law-Billboard

Amendment One would seem to accomplish the same thing; by condemning and excluding a person’s choice of law, there is a stigma attached to the individual of inferiority. To be clear, the ability to apply Sharia law in United States courts does not apply to criminal matters, but rather civil ones. For example, if a person were to seek to have their will probated under Sharia law, this would not be allowed in Alabama.[8] Additionally, if two parties in a private matter were to contract that any arbitration would be done through an imam, Alabama would say not allow it in their courts.[9]

The drafters of Amendment One may have intended to get around the unconstitutionality of their provision under Awad by stating that the foreign law would not be applicable only if it “violates the rights” of United States or Alabama citizens.[10] Eric Johnston claims that the Amendment “does not affect [foreign marriages and adoptions] at all…[t]hat was a red herring to scare people away.”[11] But what if a couple is married in a country with different divorce laws than the United States and sign a prenuptial agreement? If that prenuptial agreement is governed by law other than the United States and the couple wants a divorce in Alabama, the prenuptial will not be considered by the court. If one of the Alabamian party seeks to have the foreign prenuptial enforced, but the other Alabamian does not, the prenuptial that should be binding on the parties would be excluded from Alabama courts. The foreign governed agreement could be viewed as violating the rights of the Alabama citizen seeking its exclusion.

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The Amendment seems to be a veiled attempt to skirt the holding in Awad, and the statements of the drafters themselves indicates a desire to exclude Sharia law in particular from Alabama. Alabama citizens will only be harmed by this Amendment, and it would not be surprising to see the Amendment to fall the way of the provision that was struck down in Awad.

Justin Tepe is a third-year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Justin earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in Philosophy from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. While studying Political Science, Justin developed a passion for foreign politics and international relations. As Editor-in-Chief of the University of Baltimore Journal of International Law, Justin has had the opportunity to build on his passion for international law and help grow the Journal’s impact on the UB community. Justin has worked as a paralegal and law clerk in civil litigation firms over the last three years.

[1] Alabama Foreign Laws in Court, S. 4, 2013 Reg. Sess. (Al. 2013).

[2] Amanda Taub, Alabama’s new anti-Sharia law is discriminatory, unnecessary, and could cause real problems, Vox, http://www.vox.com/2014/11/5/7160303/alabama-sharia-ban-problem (Nov. 5, 2014).

[3] See generally, Awad v. Ziriax, 754 F.Supp. 2d 1298 (2010).

[4] Greg Garrison, Amendment banning ‘foreign law’ in Alabama courts passes; will be added to Alabama Constitution, Al.com, http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2014/11/amendment_banning_foreign_law.html (Nov. 4, 2014).

[5] Id.

[6] Awad, 754 F.Supp. 2d at 1303.

[7] Id. (internal citations omitted).

[8] Id. at 1304.

[9] Liz Farmer, Alabama Joins Wave of States Banning Foreign Laws, Governing, http://www.governing.com/topics/elections/gov-alabama-foreign-law-courts-amendment.html (Nov. 4, 2014).

[10] Alabama Foreign Laws in Court, S. 4, 2013 Reg. Sess. (Al. 2013).

[11] Garrison, supra note 4.


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Is the Kenyatta Case Another Example of the ICC’s “African Problem”?

Maya Zegarra

On October 9, 2014, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta voluntarily presented himself before the International Criminal Court (ICC), thus becoming the first sitting head of state to appear before the ICC. However, he actually temporarily stepped down as President to attend the ICC hearing. President Kenyatta faces charges of crimes against humanity (pursuant to article 25(3)(a) of the Rome Statute[1]) related to the 2007-2008 post-election violence in Kenya.[2] During this time, more than 1,000 people were killed across the country and more than 600,000 were forced from their homes.[3] President Kenyatta said he was appearing before the ICC as a private citizen; however, “his arrival was very presidential, down to the detail of bodyguards who helped him through the crowd of supporters and journalists.”[4] Kenyatta’s case reinforces the criticism by many scholars that the ICC has “an African problem”. [5] This blog post will discuss whether the ICC indeed has an “African Problem”[6] through an examination of the Kenyatta case, including the circumstances that led to President Kenyatta being summoned by the ICC, the allegations against him, and, finally, the reasons why this is an important but extremely difficult case for the ICC.

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On March 31, 2010, the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC granted the Office of the Prosecutor’s (OTP) request to commence an investigation on the situation in the Republic of Kenya for crimes against humanity. On March 8, 2011, the ICC issued a summons to appear to President Kenyatta, alleging he was criminally responsible for crimes against humanity, including murder, deportation or forcible transfer, rape, persecution, and other inhumane acts.[7]

The Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has accused the Kenyan Government of not cooperating with the investigations. On December 20, 2013, Bensouda said that withdrawal of two crucial witnesses left her without enough evidence to proceed against President Kenyatta[8]. Throughout the investigations, at least seven witnesses have withdrawn their assertions, allegedly due to bribes and intimidation. Prosecutors have also complained that requests for evidence have been turned down by the Kenyan Government; some of the evidence requested by the Prosecutor includes official records, telephone intercepts and financial statements, including Kenyatta’s phone records, bank statements and tax returns.[9]

As a State Party to the Rome Statute, Kenya has the obligation to cooperate with the ICC. However, based on the Prosecutor’s allegations and investigations, this does not seem to be happening. In fact, Kenyatta is determined to get the case dropped and has mobilized other African leaders to support him in his campaign against the ICC. He accused the ICC as being a “colonial power seeking to subvert Kenya’s national sovereignty.”[10]

Sudan has also accused the ICC of using “neo-colonialist policy by the West against free independent countries,”[11] after the issuance of an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir for crimes against humanity, war crimes and for genocide. Other African countries also believe that arrest warrants like this undermine African solidarity and threaten efforts to achieve peace, and that they are biased against Africa. At the same time, the African Union (AU) requested the ICC to defer the process against Bashir as it could undermine peace efforts, and most African States supported the AU’s request to withdraw the arrest warrant.

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These accusations seem to be justified because Sudan is not a party to the Rome Statute, which means that it has not subjected itself to the ICC. So, at first glance, it may seem that the ICC is trying to impose its jurisdiction unjustifiably over a Non-State Party. However, a closer look at the Rome Statute shows that the ICC can exercise jurisdiction over non-states parties’ nationals in three situations: 1) United Nations Security Council Referral, 2) when the alleged crimes happened on state-party territory, and 3) when the alleged crimes happened on the territory of non-state parties that give ad hoc consent to the ICC.[12] The majority of the ICC cases were self-referrals or were referred by the UN Security Council; Bashir was, in fact, referred to the ICC from the UN Security Council.

In the Kenyatta case, the ICC faces a different, but equally politically difficult situation, because Kenya is a State Party to the Rome Statute. Thus, the ICC has jurisdiction if Kenya is “unable or unwilling to prosecute”[13]. This is also the first time the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) has used its “proprio motu” power, which allows the OTP to conduct investigations on its own[14]. Additionally, the lack of substantial evidence against President Kenyatta signifies a major problem for the Prosecutor, who is being accused by the Kenyan Government and other African countries of presenting a baseless claim.

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The Chief Prosecutor is well aware of this problematic situation and stated that the ICC has only two viable options: (1) require the prosecution to withdraw the case or (2) declare an indefinite adjournment on the condition that the Kenyan Government complies with its duties[15].   However, neither one of these options are ideal. On the one hand, requiring the prosecution to withdraw would create concerns over the Prosecutor’s role and of misusing its “propio motu” power. This would also raise concerns over the legitimacy of the ICC. On the other hand, suspending the case for an indefinite time would increase concerns that the defendant’s due process rights are being violated because of the lack of a speedy trial[16]. This would also mean that the ICC is allowing the case to continue without any substantive evidence. Any of these outcomes could have a great impact in the ICC.

Another aspect that the ICC should take into considerations are the victims of these crimes. The lawyer representing the victims stated that the victims are entitled to know who intimidated those witnesses, who ordered the intimidation, and for what purposes. [17] If the ICC decides not to move forward with the trial, the victims would have no other option to bring their case and would be left unheard, allowing the perpetrators to continue on with impunity. Therefore, in the Kenyatta case, the ICC’s decision comes down to a balancing act between the rights of the accused in trial and the rights of the victims, while at the same time ensuring the goals of the ICC to end impunity by encouraging national proceedings and prevent injustice for victims.

The political rhetoric that the ICC has an “African Problem” is just that – rhetoric and highly politicized. Although the Kenyatta case has proven to be one of the most difficult cases that the ICC has faced in the past years (and one that could have severe repercussions on the legitimacy of the court), when examined separate from other African cases which were either self-referred or referred by the Security Council, the court doesn’t have an “African Problem.” Instead, many African nations lack the infrastructure and are simply unable to prosecute many of these perpetrators. Yes, the ICC is not without issue, but perhaps we should focus more on building the rule of law in these nations instead of complaining about the state of the international court so that they can one day prosecute such individuals locally instead of in The Hague.  

Maya Zegarra is a third-year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law, planning to graduate in May 2015 with a concentration in International Law. She has a Sociology degree, and is fluent in Spanish, German, English and French. Maya grew up in Peru and attended a German high school, where she participated in a student exchanged program and lived in the Baden-Württemberg area in Germany for four months.

During the summer after her first year of law school, Maya studied abroad in France, where she focused on French Law, European Union Law, and Comparative Fundamental Rights. While in France, she interned with an international and criminal defense attorney. Most recently, she participated in the Annual International Humanitarian Law Seminar, hosted by University of Virginia Law, in March 2014. Her primary interests are international law and international humanitarian law. Through her internships Maya has worked on cases related to asylum, refugee, and immigration law.

In addition to being a Fellow at the Center for International and Comparative Law, Maya currently serves as the Publications Editor for the Journal of International Law, President of the Latin American Law Student Association, Vice-President of International Law Society, Treasurer of the Immigration Law Association, and 3L Representative of the University of Baltimore Students for the Public Interest. Maya is also a Maryland Rule 16 Student Attorney at the Immigrant Rights Clinic.

[1] Situation in the Republic of Kenya in the Case of the Prosecutor v. Francis Kirim Muthaura, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and Mohammed Hussein Ali, Case No. ICC -01/09-0211 (January 23, 2012), http://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/doc/doc1314543.pdf [Hereinafter Kenyatta Case]

[2] Id. ; Scores dead in Kenya poll clashes, BBC News (December 31, 2007), http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7165602.stm; Kenya: Death and Chaos After Kibaki Win, Allafrica.com (December 31, 2007), http://web.archive.org/web/20080103085403/http://allafrica.com/stories/200712310456.html

[3] Kenya Election: Uhuru Kenyatta wins presidency, BBC News (March 3, 2013), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-21723488

[4] Kenyatta appears before the ICC court, Aljazeera (October 9, 2014), http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2014/10/kenyatta-netherlands-hague-face-icc-charges-201410802514574650.html

[5] Does the ICC have an Africa problem?, Aljazeera America (February 7, 2014), http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/2/kenya-trials-keytoiccafricarelations.html

[6] Id.

[7] Kenyatta Case, supra note 1.

[8] Prosecutor Seeks Delay in Proceedings for a Kenyan, New York Times (December 19, 2013), http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/20/world/africa/trial-of-kenyan-president.html?_r=0

[9] Id.; Aljazeera, supra note 4.

[10] International justice: You and what army? The Boston Globe (October 15, 2014), http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/editorials/2014/10/14/kenya-president-uhuru-kenyatta-slips-past-international-criminal-court/5izuCckt9iwsz50L7YiqVP/story.html

[11] Arrest Warrant of 11 April 2000 (Democratic Republic of Congo v. Belgium), Judgment, ICJ Reports (February 14, 2002, ICJ).

[12] Rome Statute, art. 13.

[13] Rome Statute, art. 17.

[14] Id.

[15] ICC Prosecutor Asks Court to Decide on Indefinitely Adjourning Kenyatta Case or Terminating It, International Justice Monitor (October 8, 2014), http://www.ijmonitor.org/2014/10/icc-prosecutor-asks-court-to-decide-on-indefinitely-adjourning-kenyatta-case-or-terminating-it/

[16] Rome Statute, art. 67.

[17] International Justice Monitor, supra note 17.


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Holding Private Military Security Contractors Accountable, Part I

Lindsay Stallings

What is the role of private military security contractors (PMSC) in international war today? At the beginning of the War on Terror there were an innumerable amount of private security personnel working for the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan. On October 23, 2014, a jury convicted four former Blackwater (now known as Academi) security personnel of first degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter, and using military firearms in the commission of a felony.[1] These convictions send a message that the actions of PMSCs can incur criminal liability for their actions.

The role PMSCs play in international conflicts is very important. They often do work that active duty military cannot do because of various international law constraints, they often have military training themselves, but are often not held by the same international law standards due to the status of forces agreements (SOFA) that they operate under in the host country. These agreements often afford PMSCs immunity under the domestic laws of the host country. This case featuring the four former Blackwater operatives is of great importance because it is the first instance that puts limits on the activities of the PMSC’s. 

KHALID MOHAMMED/AP - An Iraqi traffic policeman inspects a car destroyed by a Blackwater security detail in al-Nisoor Square in Baghdad, Iraq in 2007. A federal jury in Washington convicted four former Blackwater security guards on trial in the shootings of more than 30 Iraqi citizens in the heart of Baghdad.

KHALID MOHAMMED/AP
An Iraqi traffic policeman inspects a car destroyed by a Blackwater security detail in al-Nisoor Square in Baghdad, Iraq in 2007. A federal jury in Washington convicted four former Blackwater security guards on trial in the shootings of more than 30 Iraqi citizens in the heart of Baghdad.

Condoning their Behavior?

In 2007 four Blackwater operatives killed 14 unarmed Iraqi’s, largely women and children. At the time of the incident the US refused to allow the Blackwater employees to be tried by the Iraqi justice system. They were brought back to the US to stand trial here instead. The first trial was dismissed by the judge based on the unconstitutional collection of evidence.[2] In terms of US-Iraqi diplomatic relations the mistrial was the second blow. First, the US protected the Blackwater employees by bringing them back to the US for trial. Second, when they did face trial, it was inconclusive. To the Iraqis this likely seemed as if the US was condoning the Blackwater employee’s actions, as there was no justice for those that were killed.[3]

At the conclusion of the second trial on October 22, 2014, there was little rebounding from the presumption that the US did not really intend to punish the Blackwater employees. In response to this daunting assertion, US attorney in Washington, DC said that this verdict “is a resounding affirmation of the commitment of the American people to the rule of law, even in times of war.”[4] Holding these security contractors accountable, even seven years later, will hopefully bridge the diplomatic differences exacerbated by this incident.[5]

Former Blackwater Worldwide security guard Nick Slatter, second from left, and Donald Ball, third from left, arrive with their lawyers at the U.S. District Court before surrendering to authorities in Salt Lake City, Utah, in Dec. 2008.

Former Blackwater Worldwide security guard Nick Slatter, second from left, and Donald Ball, third from left, arrive with their lawyers at the U.S. District Court before surrendering to authorities in Salt Lake City, Utah, in Dec. 2008.

What Role Will PMSCs Play in International Conflicts in the Future?

The true question is what legal status should PMSCs have in future international  and non-international armed conflicts?

In this case, the lack of international legal status is likely what caused the most diplomatic strife. These men are American citizens, but they are not American military. They do not report to the Department of Defense, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and the US enters into agreements with the host government that waives the applicability of host country domestic law for their actions. PMSCs are private American citizens employed by the Department of State. PMSCs operate in a legal vacuum. Prior to these convictions, legal precedent was unclear as to what law applied to private citizens committing criminal acts in foreign lands. There is still not a clear legal direction as to what status PMSCs hold when they are acting in a foreign country. This could be further muddled if distinguishing between the types of conflicts that PMSCs are participating in, whether or not they are working overtly or covertly, and who has hired them (the United States government or other nations). In the second installment of this blog post, however, I will delve further into the legal status PMSC’s should have when acting within various types of international conflicts based on the legal precedent set by this case.

While legal precedent is important, it sometimes works much slower in the real world than public policy could work. The Iraqis doubted the US commitment to bringing the Blackwater employees to justice for their attack on unarmed Iraqi civilians. This ruling is a palpable step towards establishing a barrier between acceptable and unacceptable behavior of private citizens acting in a war zone. Although the Iraqis may not have their full faith in the US justice system restored after waiting seven years for a ruling, this is indeed a positive step in showing the world that we are willing to hold these private citizens accountable for their actions. This could, and hopefully does, show the world that the US does not think it is completely above the law – foreign or domestic.

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Legal precedent is important and actively developing due, in large part, to this case. In the meantime, the evolving public policy will hopefully calm any remaining diplomatic strain stemming from this incident. Further, it should remind the international community that the US is taking responsibility for the actions of their PMSCs and, while it took some time in this case, impunity will not carry on into the future.

In Part Two of this blog post I will discuss the legal standards that should be applied to PMSCs in different types of international conflicts.

Lindsay Stallings is third year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law, planning to graduate in May 2015 with a J.D. and concentration in International Law. She graduated from The Ohio State University in June of 2011 with a Bachelors of Science in Political Science with minors in Sociology and International Studies. She has also studied  Spanish and Arabic language and culture extensively. While at The Ohio State University she was a member of the International Affairs Scholars program, through which she studied abroad in Bulgaria. She was active in the Undergraduate Student Government and was a member of various academic and student life university-level committees.

Her primary interests are international law, national security, and U.S. Military and diplomatic policies. Through her coursework and relationships with our international law faculty she has developed a more focused interest in the policies surrounding international conflict and the capabilities of international courts. Lindsay currently serves as the Careers Director on the International Law Society and is a Staff Editor on the Journal of International Law. Her legal coursework and extracurricular activities have given her the opportunity to mold her passion for cultural studies and problem solving into an exciting international legal career.

[1] Justine Drennan, Four Blackwater Guards Convicted of Killing 14 Unarmed Iraqis, Oct. 23, 2014 http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/10/22/four_blackwater_guards_convicted_of_killing_14_unarmed_iraqis.

[2] Dwyer Arce, Federal judge dismissed charges against indicted Blackwater guards, Jan. 1, 2010 http://jurist.org/paperchase/2010/01/federal-judge-dismisses-charges-against.php.

[3] Mary Casey, U.S. Jury Convicts Four Former Blackwater Guards in 2007 Killings, Oct. 23, 2014 http://mideastafrica.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/10/23/us_jury_convicts_four_former_blackwater_guards_in_2007_killings

[4] Id.

[5] Matt Apuzzo, Blackwater Guards Found Guilty in 2007 Iraq Killings, Oct. 22, 2014 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/23/us/blackwater-verdict.html?ref=middleeast&_r=0.