A Broad Overview of the Law of Armed Conflict in the Age of Terror

The Fundamentals of Counterterrorism Law 139-161 (Lynne Zusman ed.) 2014

24 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2014

See all articles by Shane Reeves

Shane Reeves

United States Military Academy, West Point

David Lai

Independent

Date Written: January 3, 2014

Abstract

Applying and enforcing the laws that regulate warfare is increasingly difficult in today’s armed conflicts. Escaping traditional conflict classifications, not limited by geography, and an amalgamation of asymmetric and conventional tactics modern warfare strains the traditional Law of Armed Conflict paradigm. The advent of terrorism, which is regulated by a mixture of the Law of Armed Conflict, human rights law, and domestic criminal law, only exacerbates the legal uncertainty permeating throughout contemporary warfare. As this ambiguity becomes the norm rather than the exception in warfare − particularly in conflicts between state actors and non-state ideologically motivated terrorist groups − understanding the fundamentals of the Law of Armed Conflict is imperative for effective regulation of these broadly scoped conflicts. This chapter is a broad overview of the Law of Armed Conflict. It discusses the distinction between jus ad bellum and jus in bello; the legal sources of the Law of Armed Conflict; the classification of armed conflicts; the delineation of individual battlefield status; and the core principles that regulate warfare. These concepts are at the foundation of the Law of Armed Conflict, and understanding these basic tenets is critical for any individual who is interested in discussing the legality of terrorist activity. Perhaps more importantly, it is through this prism the legality of all contemporary warfare challenges − whether it is the use of a drone to kill a terrorist operative, detention of a member of Al-Qaeda, or a cyber-attack by a state actor − are initially viewed and scrutinized.

Keywords: terrorism, law of war, law of armed conflict, human rights, international humanitarian law, military necessity, proportionality, distinction, unnecessary suffering, jus in bello, jus ad bellum, combatants, combatant immunity, international armed conflict, asymmetric warfare

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Reeves, Shane and Lai, David, A Broad Overview of the Law of Armed Conflict in the Age of Terror (January 3, 2014). The Fundamentals of Counterterrorism Law 139-161 (Lynne Zusman ed.) 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2375935

Shane Reeves (Contact Author)

United States Military Academy, West Point ( email )

600 Thayer Rd
West Point, NY 10996
United States

David Lai

Independent

No Address Available

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