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A mercenary is a person who takes part in an armed conflict, who is not a national or a party to the conflict, and 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 ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party".
As a result of the assumption that a mercenary is essentially motivated by money, the term mercenary usually carries negative connotations. There is a blur in the distinction between a mercenary and a foreign volunteer, when the primary motive of a soldier in a foreign army is uncertain. For instance, the French Foreign Legion and the Gurkhas of the British and Indian armies are not mercenaries under the laws of war, since although they may meet many of the requirements of Article 47 of Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, they are exempt under clauses 47(a)(c)(d)(e)&(f); some journalists describe them as mercenaries nevertheless.
The Protocol Additional GC 1977 (APGC77) provides the most widely accepted international definition of a mercenary, though not endorsed by some countries, including the United States. The Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, (Protocol I), 8 June 1977 states:
All the criteria (a – f) must be met, according to the Geneva Convention, for a combatant to be described as a mercenary.
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