This Convention was adopted on 4 December 1989 by Resolution 44/34 of the United Nations General Assembly. Two texts concerning mercenaries adopted prior to that date are worth noting: Article 47 of Additional Protocol I of 1977 to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the Convention on the "Elimination of Mercenarism in Africa" adopted by the Organization of African Unity in Libreville on 3 July 1977. Comprising 21 articles, the 1989 Convention pursues steps previously taken by Third World countries, seconded at the time by socialist countries, to fight against mercenarism throughout the world.
The definition of a mercenary is derived from Article 47 of Protocol I, but goes further by applying to "armed conflict" (Article 1, paragraph 1) and also to "any other situation" (Article 1, paragraph 2). Any of the activities cited in the Convention is considered an offence regardless of whether perpetrated by the mercenaries themselves (Article 3) or by any other person (Article 2). Attempts and complicity to commit any of the offences set forth are also considered an offence (Article 4).
As with other instruments of international criminal law, States Parties undertake to try or to extradite suspected offenders as stipulated by the Convention (Articles 9 to 12).
Concerning relations between the Convention of 1989 and international humanitarian law, it reserves the "right" of each State Party to invite the ICRC to communicate with and visit alleged offenders in violation of this Convention held on its territory (Article 10, paragraph 4). Article 16 b) includes a safeguard clause applicable to international humanitarian law.