This article seeks to examine matters relating to the categorisation of individuals under the laws of armed conflict, with particular reference to issues that have been at the centre of attention in the past decade, and often linked with the so called "war on terror". Notably, during these same years the IHL community has been virtually transfixed by the process of expert meetings and documents that culminated with a publication by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on direct participation in hostilities. Both the "war on terror" and the ICRC process have together provided much of the ammunition in the lively confrontations of contrasting legal opinions on individual status under IHL. The focus of this article is on the actual effects of categorisation of individuals -particularly in the conduct of hostilities- and whether the controversies over the labels used are in fact a major concern or, perhaps, more of a distracting smokescreen.
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