United Nations Mercenary Convention

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The United Nations Mercenary Convention, officially the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, is a 2001 United Nations treaty that prohibits the recruitment, training, use, and financing of mercenaries. At the 72nd plenary meeting on 4 December 1989, the United Nations General Assembly concluded the convention as its resolution 44/34. The convention entered into force on 20 October 2001 [1] and has been ratified by 35 states.


Countries with large militaries that have not ratified the convention include China, France, India, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. [2]

Definition of a mercenary

Article 1 of the Convention has the following definition of a mercenary:

1. A mercenary is any person who:

(a) Is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict;
(b) Is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar rank and functions in the armed forces of that party;
(c) Is neither a national of a party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a party to the conflict;
(d) Is not a member of the armed forces of a party to the conflict; and
(e) Has not been sent by a State which is not a party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces.

2. A mercenary is also any person who, in any other situation:

(a) Is specially recruited locally or abroad for the purpose of participating in a concerted act of violence aimed at:
(i) Overthrowing a Government or otherwise undermining the constitutional order of a State; or
(ii) Undermining the territorial integrity of a State;
(b) Is motivated to take part therein essentially by the desire for significant private gain and is prompted by the promise or payment of material compensation;
(c) Is neither a national nor a resident of the State against which such an act is directed;
(d) Has not been sent by a State on official duty; and
(e) Is not a member of the armed forces of the State on whose territory the act is undertaken.
UN Mercenary Convention [1]

One time Judge Advocate Todds S. Milliard has argued that the convention and Article 47 of Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I) are designed to cover the activities of mercenaries in post colonial Africa, and do not address adequately the use of private military companies by sovereign states. [3]

Signatories and parties

As of December 2016, the convention had been ratified by 35 states.

Below are the states that have signed, ratified or acceded to the convention. [4] [5]

CountrySigning dateRatification dateNotes
Flag of Italy.svg Italy February 5, 1990August 21 1995
Flag of the Seychelles 1977.svg Seychelles March 12, 1990
Flag of Zaire.svg Zaire March 20, 1990Signed as Zaire; successor state is the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Flag of Nigeria.svg Nigeria April 4, 1990
Flag of Maldives.svg Maldives July 17, 1990September 11, 1991
Flag of the People's Republic of Congo.svg P.R. Congo July 20, 1990Signed as the People's Republic of the Congo; successor state is the Republic of the Congo.
Flag of Ukraine.svg Ukraine September 21, 1990September 13, 1993Signed as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Flag of Morocco.svg Morocco October 5, 1990
Flag of Suriname.svg Suriname February 27, 1990August 10, 1990
Flag of Uruguay.svg Uruguay November 20, 1990July 14, 1999
Flag of Germany.svg Germany December 12, 1990
Flag of Barbados.svg Barbados December 13, 1990July 10, 1992
Flag of Belarus (1995-2012).svg Belarus December 13, 1990May 28, 1997Signed as the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Flag of Romania.svg Romania December 17, 1990
Flag of Cameroon.svg Cameroon December 21, 1990Jan. 1, 1996
Flag of Poland.svg Poland December 28, 1990
Flag of Togo.svg Togo February 25, 1991
Flag of Angola.svg Angola December 28, 1990
Flag of Cyprus (1960-2006).svg Cyprus July 8, 1993
Flag of Georgia (1990-2004).svg Georgia June 8, 1995
Flag of Turkmenistan (1992-1997).svg Turkmenistan September 18, 1996
Flag of Azerbaijan.svg Azerbaijan April 12, 1997
Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg Saudi Arabia April 14, 1997With reservations.
Flag of Uzbekistan.svg Uzbekistan January 19, 1998
Flag of Mauritania (1959–2017).svg Mauritania February 9, 1998
Flag of Qatar.svg Qatar March 26, 1999
Flag of Senegal.svg Senegal July 9, 1999
Flag of Croatia.svg Croatia March 27, 2000
Flag of Libya (1977–2011).svg Libya September 22, 2000
Flag of Serbia.svg SerbiaMarch 12, 2001January 14, 2016Signed as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Flag of Costa Rica (state).svg Costa Rica September 20, 2001
Flag of Mali.svg Mali April 12, 2002
Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Belgium May 5, 2002With reservations.
Flag of Guinea.svg Guinea June 18, 2003
Flag of New Zealand.svg New Zealand Sept. 22, 2004
Flag of Liberia.svg Liberia September 16, 2005
Flag of Moldova.svg Moldova February 28, 2006With reservations.
Flag of Montenegro.svg Montenegro October 23, 2006
Flag of Peru (state).svg Peru March 23, 2007
Flag of Cuba.svg Cuba September 2, 2007
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Canada not ratified and is supporting PMC
Flag of Syria.svg Syria January 19, 2008With reservations.
Flag of Venezuela (state).svg Venezuela November 12, 2013
Flag of Ecuador.svg Ecuador December 12, 2016

See also


  1. 1 2 International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries Archived February 9, 2008, at the Wayback Machine A/RES/44/34 72nd plenary meeting 4 December 1989 (UN Mercenary Convention) Entry into force: 20 October 2001Archived 9 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  2. Higgins Alexander G.US rejects UN mercenary report USA Today, October 17, 2007 (syndicated article by Associated Press)
  3. Milliard, Todd S.; Overcoming post-colonial myopia: A call to recognize and regulate private military companies(PDF), in Military Law Review Vol 173, June 2003. At the time of publication Major Milliard was a Judge Advocate in the Judge Advocate General's Corps, U.S. Army. Page 5. Paragraph 1
  4. http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/WebSign?ReadForm&id=530&ps=P
  5. http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/WebSign?ReadForm&id=530&ps=S