Private Security Companies In The Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT): An International Humanitarian Law Perspective

Published: 
Mar 2008

Recent incidents involving private security companies1 (PSCs) in Iraq have raised questions among governments and international agencies regarding the appropriate legal framework to regulate these organizations as well as to determine both company and employer liability under international humanitarian law (IHL).2 While the use of PSCs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) has remained more limited than in Iraq,3 the growing presence of PSCs, especially at military checkpoints and crossings, has raised concerns among humanitarian practitioners. The purpose of this policy brief is to assess current uncertainties concerning the legal status of PSCs as they relate to the work of humanitarian agencies, the integrity of military chain of command, and the protection of civilian populations. A central issue lies in determining the extent to which PSC employees are to be considered agents of the Occupying Power and therefore no different, in legal terms, from any member of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), or whether they represent a new and separate legal entity whose behavior cannot be directly attributable to the Occupation Power under IHL.4 For example, what are the legal duties and responsibilities of PSC employees in terms of facilitating humanitarian workers’ access to the occupied population? In the event that PSC employees are involved in military engagements in occupied territory, or if they detain, injure, or kill civilians, what accountability structure applies to their actions? In interviews with humanitarian practitioners in both the UN and the NGO communities, HPCR researchers found that these questions are beginning to trouble those responsible for the coordination and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian population. 

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