The principle of distinction between civilians and combatants is one of the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law. Inherent in this principle is the need to define who is considered a combatant – one who is lawfully permitted to take active and direct part in the hostilities. This chapter examines the origins and evolution of combatant status, discusses the current rules regarding who may be considered a combatant under international law and what consequences follow when combatant status is denied. This chapter also explores whether international law is evolving to include new categories of persons entitled to combatant status.
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