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Challenging the Strength of the Anti-Mercenary Norm

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Hin-Yan Liu, Christopher Kinsey

This article questions the prevailing view championed by Sarah Percy that a strong international norm exists against mercenary activity. We revisit both the theories and the documentary evidence that serve as the foundation for the anti-mercenary norm, and identify countervailing undercurrents capable of accounting for the same observations. From a theoretical perspective, more consideration needs to be given to international restrictions placed upon mercenaries that are the tangential expressions of more basic and pervasive international norms, namely those of state neutrality, the right of peoples to self-determination and freedom of movement. To buttress these contentions, we draw upon documentary evidence focussing on the immediate period after the Napoleonic Wars up to the end of the first Carlist War in 1840, the Crimean War, and conflicts of national liberation in the de-colonisation era. This body of evidence suggests a broad official indifference to mercenaries during the periods in which the anti-mercenary norm was crystallising. Drawing these arguments together, we propose a thorough re-examination of the strength and utility of a separate and distinct international norm against mercenaries.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Global Security Studies
Volume3
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)93-110
Number of pages18
ISSN2057-3170
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

ID: 174412533