Over the past few years privatized military firms (PMFs) have allegedly committed all kind of war crimes, including torture. Prisoners’ abuses at Abu Ghraib or indiscriminate firing against civilian vehicles to the rhythm of Elvis Presley’s “Runaway Train” are but a couple of examples of the excesses revealed by the public media. Nonetheless, members of PMFs have hardly been held accountable. “Lawlessness” and “weak laws” have been blamed for these striking cases of impunity. Emphasizing the crime of torture, this article explores the legal framework applicable to PMFs, both from a domestic and an international perspective, and sheds light on ways in which these alleged crimes could be investigated, prosecuted, and tried. The article concludes by questioning the reasons behind the impunity of members of a PMF, even in cases in which their military counterparts were tried and condemned.
James Risen, “Efforts to Prosecute Blackwater Are Collapsing”, N.Y. Times, 20 October 2010, available online at: <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/21/world/21contractors.html?_r=1> (last accessed 23 October 2010).