Have you investigated the scale (or scope) of the issue/phenomenon? Broadly speaking: how widespread is this “problem”? How many people/groups/states/regions are currently affected by it, and to what extent? Obviously, enumerating things like this depends on the definition used (see above) – so, how does varying the definition changes the answer to this scale/scope issue, and what can we make of that?
“Traditionally, ‘mercenaries’ were soldiers hired to fight in an armed conflict or to overthrow a Government, but in recent conflicts in Côte d’Ivoire and Libya, Governments had used foreign fighters against their own populations.” Says Faiza Patel the United Nations Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights of peoples to self-determination.
Under the UN definition, mercenaries per-say are located in parts of Africa and Latin America, more specifically Colombia, Sierra Leon and Uganda, many of which are hired by the State or companies. These mercenaries are mostly made up of foreigners who are paid to protect and participate in an armed conflict. In Colombia’s case particularly, private security companies (PSCs) have participated in an armed conflict, does that make them mercenaries? The line between what can be and not be considered a contracted private security company or a mercenary group is hazy because these groups have a tendency to engage in illegal scenarios.-->
Iraq, U.A.E, Libya, Somalia, South Africa, Afghanistan, Mali, Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America has at some point over the past 100 years employed or housed mercenaries and private armies. The problem is to call a group of armed combants 'mercenaries' they must be considered by the international community an illegal armed group working for a state or a firm. G4S, for example, is the second largest private employer in the world hired by the American government to protect non-military convoys in Iraq but the company also has deals with 125 countries, is hired by firms in some of the most dangerous parts of Africa and Latin America providing heavily armed security, landmine clearance, military intelligence and training.
While PSCs are being paid to protect and not engage in open hostilities they can fall into combat easily. If the official army of the host country, for instance, were to attack a convoy of civilians that is protected by a private security company during a time of war, is the army’s attack on the convoy by the rules of international laws considered legal engagement? Are private security personnel allowed to engage in this form of combat?
In 2009, Blackwater-known as Xe- under a U.S. goverment contract got involved in what is considered an illegal military engagement caused by a car that refused to stop, in response 17 civilians where killed in Baghdad. The United States has since been more cautious when dealing with these private security companies but that does not mean that they do not have them scattered around Iraq. More-importantly, most of these PSCs are often found in conflict and war zones. The French Foreign Legions, for instance, are hired soldiers to protect French interests over seas but by the UN definition are considered mercenaries. Needless to say, the French Legions are exempt under the clauses 47 of the UN Protocol, which is no suprise given that France is one of the 5 permanent members of the Security Council. Contractors like the CIA have in the past been responsible hiring mercenaries to operate and intervene in other countries affaris. To learn more go to-->
Militias, on the other hand, are typically considered armed groups like the Taliban, Hezbollah and FARC, who are generally found in the Middle East and Latin America. They are politically driven but have been associated with forms of terrorism. Hezbollah, in particular has widespread network, training civilians and insurgents in Brazil, Venezuela and the Southern Cone. The United States, similarly, has militias that are anti-government and are scattered through the west coast and south of the United States. Given how broad the definition of militias is, there is a lot of room to speculate who can be considered a militia, but militias in theory are civilians taking part in an armed conflict, and they are generally found wherever there is a military conflict or political instability.