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"Private" security guards: Privatized force and State responsibility under international human rights law

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image of Non-State Actors and International Law
For more content, see International Community Law Review.

Private security is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. In some sense, its rapid expansion leading into the beginning of the twenty-first century exemplifies the prevailing neoliberal ideology, particularly its twin features of privatization and deregulation. Governments seek to decrease public expenditure and regulatory control by selling off public services, including prisons and police forces, supposedly to be run more efficiently under competitive market conditions. But the turn of the century has also seen increased resistance to these developments as popular movements have opposed the privatization of what are perceived to be essentially public services, demanding that government maintain its role as a service provider in the public interest. Within this debate, then, private security and the privatized use of force represent a challenge to the State "monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force". However, it is the State's public accountability that legitimizes its powers of coercion, an accountability that is lacking, at least from a human rights perspective, when private parties use force for their own purposes. Thus, it becomes necessary to examine whether a State can legitimately relinquish to private security guards its monopoly over the use of force.


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