Does the Law of Armed Conflict Need to Evolve With Respect to Non-State Actors?
NAVAL WAR COLL NEWPORT RI JOINT MILITARY OPERATIONS DEPT
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As the war on terrorism continues, the debate grows on how to deal with enemy fighters captured during military operations. Are the Taliban fighters considered prisoners of war What about the Al Qaeda terrorists captured alongside them, or fighting separately Today, the question of how a commander should conduct operations or treat captured fighters while still complying with the law of armed conflict is more complicated than ever. To make the issue even more confusing, the definition of a lawful or unlawful combatant may differ depending whether a given conflict is internal or international. Terrorists may be the issue of the day, but mercenaries, multinational corporations, international criminal organizations and even multinational peacekeeping forces are other possible non-state actors that may become involved in combat and are not adequately addressed by the laws of armed conflict. While we may find short-term answers by creatively interpreting the existing guidance, we need to change the law to provide a long-term solution for dealing with non-state actors in armed conflicts, whether internal or international. This paper is not intended to determine whether they are criminals instead of combatants, but attempts to determine how the law of armed conflict applies to their actions during combat and treatment when captured, thus assuming that they will be considered combatants because they participate in armed conflict.
- Unconventional Warfare