Challenges of twenty-first century conflicts : a look at direct participation in hostilities
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Duke journal of comparative and international law, Vol. 20, no. 3, Spring 2010, p. 457-471
Jamie A. Williamson
Presently, most armed conflicts are not fought between states in a traditional fashion. A wide range of highly complex and drawn-out internal conflicts of low intensity are replacing interstate warfare. Most conflicts usually involve at least one organized non-state armed group, without a clear start or end to the hostilities. Questions of transnational terrorism further add fuel to the fire of violence. With this metamorphosis of conflicts, it was suggested that certain aspects of IHL were inadequate to deal with the realities of modern warfare. IHL was deemed too outdated to effectively address the threats faced in the fight against terrorism. For the ICRC, there was no one size fits all approach to answering this question. Each situation of violence, whether part of the so called global fight against terrorism or not, needs to be assessed on a case by-case basis. In other words, only by looking at the facts on the ground, at the parties involved, and nature of the violence, could it be determined whether and to what extent IHL applied to the situation. Individuals at war in the legal sense would be protected by International Humanitarian Law. Outside of legal war, protection would be afforded by other bodies of law, such as human rights law and domestic law.