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Attribution of Conduct to International Organizations in Peacekeeping Operations

Published on March 10, 2009        Author: 

Antonios Tzanakopoulos is a DPhil Candidate at St Anne’s College, Oxford. He has an LLM from New York University Law School. During the 57th session of the International Law Commission (2005), he was research assistant to Professor Giorgio Gaja, Special Rapporteur on the Responsibility of International Organizations. His Oxford thesis is on the responsibility of United Nations for wrongful non-forcible measures by the Security Council.

A recent article by White and MacLeod in the EJIL (EU Operations and Private Military Contractors: Issues of Corporate and Institutional Responsibility) discusses, in part, the attribution of conduct of Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) to an International Organization (IO) in the context of a peacekeeping operation (PKO). The authors take issue with Article 5 of the International Law Commission’s  (ILC) Draft Articles on the Responsibility of International Organizations (DARIO) and the high threshold of “effective control” that this provision requires for attribution of conduct to an IO. However, Article 5 DARIO is specifically adopted to deal with the attribution to an IO of the conduct of a military contingent belonging to a State, and does not apply in the case of attribution of PMSC conduct. It is Article 4 DARIO that applies in such a case. Paragraph 1 of that provision states that:

The conduct of an organ or agent of an international organization in the performance of functions of that organ or agent shall be considered as an act of that organization under international law whatever position the organ or agent holds in respect of the organization.

 This being the case, attribution of conduct by a PMSC hired by an IO to the IO is, ostensibly, automatic and thus much easier than attribution of PMSC conduct to a State. In the latter case one would have to argue basically either that the PMSC exercises elements of governmental authority or that it is directed or (effectively) controlled by that State (see the discussion here, here, here, and here). Could it in fact be so, and how can this difference be explained?

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