Journal Article

Litigating Abuses Committed by Private Military Companies

Cedric Ryngaert

in European Journal of International Law

Published on behalf of The EJIL

Volume 19, issue 5, pages 1035-1053
Published in print November 2008 | ISSN: 0938-5428
Published online November 2008 | e-ISSN: 1464-3596 | DOI:
Litigating Abuses Committed by Private Military Companies

Show Summary Details


One of the main tools for ‘socializing’ private military contractors (PMCs) is litigation. The threat of litigation may encourage contractors to set up their own corporate social responsibility and accountability mechanisms with a view to preventing them being hauled before courts. The article identifies the jurisdictional opportunities and pitfalls of criminal (public law) and civil/tort (private law) litigation against PMCs in domestic courts. The focus lies on litigation for human rights abuses, with special emphasis on US proceedings, the US being the home and hiring state of the majority of PMCs active in overseas conflict zones. It is argued that, because the chances of success of tort litigation are, in fact, rather limited in the US, given the many procedural obstacles, the criminal law avenue may prove to be more promising, if at least prosecutors show more leadership in bringing cases. Also at a deeper accountability level, criminal litigation may be preferable on the ground that criminal punishment sends a stronger accountability and deterrence signal than a mere money judgment.

Journal Article.  10656 words. 

Subjects: Public International Law

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