Past event: Mercenaries in Contemporary Armed Conflicts: The Wagner Group and Beyond
Organisers: SCGA and the Glasgow Centre for International Law and Security
On 31st January 2023, SCGA co-sponsored an event hosted by the University of Glasgow’s Glasgow Centre for International Law and Security, who welcomed Dr Sorcha MacLeod from the University of Copenhagen for a lecture on the use of mercenaries and related actors in contemporary armed conflicts around the globe.
Dr MacLeod’s address covered the long history of the use of mercenaries in armed conflict, from the use of Swiss mercenaries during the Middle Ages to the contemporary actions of the Wagner Group in Ukraine, Syria, and Mali. Dr MacLeod showed that while national laws have been more comprehensive in their prohibition of mercenary activities, international law still struggles to conceptualise and govern the use of mercenaries in international conflicts, with the United Nations’s International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, for example, only ratified by 37 states.
Image: Dr MacLeod
Reflecting on her work as a member of the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries, Dr MacLeod argued that international law needs to rise to the challenge of regulating mercenaries effectively to allow for the protection of and reparations for civilians harmed by conflict across the globe. As recent conflicts have shown, the use of mercenaries is widespread, and international law must accordingly find ways to hold mercenary groups to account.
A discussion then followed between Dr MacLeod and Dr Andrea Varga and Dr Mohamad Janaby from the Glasgow Centre for International Law and Security. The conversation ranged from the reasons behind the reluctance of states to support the regulation of mercenaries to the question of whether other private actors such as American military company Blackwater should also be considered mercenaries for the purposes of international law.
The event closed with a drinks reception provided by the Glasgow Centre for International Law and Security and the Scottish Council on Global Affairs.