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Al Qaeda and the Law of War

24 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2013  

Arthur Mark Weisburd

University of North Carolina School of Law

Date Written: 2007


Nearly since September 11 itself, the legal community has been debating the legal status of al-Qaeda members-criminals versus combatants of war. Though there are many lenses through which one can view this issue, this Article examines the question in terms of individual rights of al-Qaeda members under international law. The author puts the issue in context by first discussing the significance of the label-the distinction in treatment between criminal suspects and prisoners of war. Then, the Article analyzes al-Qaeda and its operations to determine where its members might fall on the continuum from criminal to combatant. Ultimately, the Article suggests that, at least when considering their personal rights under international law, al-Qaeda members should be considered combatants of war, rather than criminals. However, the nature of al-Qaeda makes it difficult to apply international humanitarian law to the group, with interesting implications for the future of this area of law.

Suggested Citation

Weisburd, Mark, Al Qaeda and the Law of War (2007). Lewis & Clark Law Review, Vol. 11, No. 4, p. 1063, 2007; UNC Legal Studies Research Paper. Available at SSRN:

Arthur Mark Weisburd (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

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