In some non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) a foreign state is involved in favour of an armed group. This poses a challenge to classifying these armed conflicts under IHL. This article argues that evaluating the actions of a foreign state is best carried out by application of the ‘overall control’ test as developed by the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Tadić case. The advantages of this approach are twofold. First, it is a more realistic benchmark for generating the required evidence than the complete dependency or effective control tests developed by the International Court of Justice. Second, using this test makes it less likely for a state to escape its responsibilities under IHL when it acts through armed groups in a prima facie NIAC on the territory of another state. To arrive at this conclusion, the article first critically discusses the different control tests. It then advances that Article 4 of Geneva Convention III 1949 and Article 29 of Geneva Convention IV 1949 themselves contain a threshold of control that can be used to identify foreign state participation in a prima facie NIAC.
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