The rule of law features prominently in state-based responses to an array of contemporary security problems, especially those involving acts of political violence. Laws are used not only to prohibit and, in some cases, criminalize certain acts relating to such violence, but also to authorize and then place limits on the use of force by states and state agents. While these laws are often treated as separate systems or branches of public international law by legal scholars and practitioners, they are, perhaps from a politico-analytical perspective, better understood as artifacts produced by relatively distinct, but at times interconnecting, social fields in the Bourdieusian sense. These fields tend to emerge and evolve through a transversal dynamic that occurs between horizontal interstate conduct and vertical state reach, a dynamic spurred on through the drafting and negotiation of certain instruments of international law, the implementation and administration of those instruments by state parties, and the monitoring and enforcement of state compliance relating to any duties and responsibilities flowing from those instruments. This chapter describes certain types of political violence before offering a brief overview of four fields of law that regulate that violence: namely, (1) the general prohibition on the use of armed force in international affairs; (2) international humanitarian law; (3) international criminal law; and (4) transnational criminal law. Signaling key struggles occurring within these fields, this chapter warns of the wide scope for the misuse of various instruments of international law. The chapter finds that these fields of law, which frame the possibilities for, and the limitations of, regulating various types of political violence, can contribute in important, but always limited, ways to the protection and advancement of internationally-recognized human rights in times of war, broadly understood.
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