Foreign personnel hired to provide military services have often been present in armed conflicts. During the sixties and the seventies, this situation has been mainly associated with covert, mercenary activity. The provisions on mercenaries included in Article 47 of the First Protocol Additional to the Geneva Convention of 1949 the “Convention on the Elimination of Mercenarism in Africa " , and the “International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries“ were adopted at a time when this phenomenon was widely observed.
In recent years, however, there has been the emergence of highly professional companies that offer mercenary services openly, sometimes using websites. Some companies such as Executive Outcomes, Blackwater, Condor Security and Sandline have carried out active combat operations in various countries. Executive Outcomes, which drew heavily on members of South African special forces, assisted the Angolan government against the rebel movement, UNITA, and helped the Sierra Leone authorities defeat the Revolutionary United Front and restore the elected President to power . Sandline, a sister company to Executive Outcomes “admits to having undertaken six international operations since 1993”, including in Papua New Guinea and Sierra Leone.These are not government sanctioned military forces, but private mercenaries and assassins-for-hire that do not abide by Protocol I. In this age of profiteering, is the Geneva Convention no longer relevant? Does anyone care?