MERCENARIES (Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – IR)

News-CRUX-10     18th June 2024        

Context: The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) recently acknowledged the tragic loss of two Indian nationals recruited by the Russian Army amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict.


  • Definition: These are individuals recruited from third-party states to participate in armed conflicts, driven primarily by personal gain rather than national allegiance, unlike conventional combatants who are typically part of a party's armed forces.
  • Criteria for Mercenary Status: According to Article 47 of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, specific conditions must be met to classify an individual as a mercenary, including recruitment, direct involvement in hostilities, and monetary compensation exceeding that of regular combatants.
  • Legal Status under IHL: While being a mercenary isn't inherently a crime under customary IHL, mercenaries are not entitled to prisoner-of-war status if captured, potentially facing prosecution for war crimes or breaches of humanitarian law.
  • Protection under IHL: Despite their status, mercenaries are entitled to humane treatment under Article 75 of Additional Protocol I, ensuring they receive fundamental guarantees of humanitarian law.
  • African Context and Legislation: In response to the prevalence of mercenaries in civil wars, African states crafted the Organization of African Unity Convention in 1977, expanding the definition of mercenaries to encompass activities within civil conflicts, aiming to curb their impact in the region.
  • International Legislation: The 1989 UN International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries broadened the definition to include acts against governmental integrity and territorial sovereignty.

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