International Humanitarian Law and the Challenge of Combatant Status
International Law Annual, Vol. 2, pp. 17-22, 2014
6 Pages Posted: 3 Jul 2014 Last revised: 3 Oct 2014
Date Written: July 1, 2014
International humanitarian law faces a range of ongoing challenges. These include the challenges posed by new and emerging types of weapons, the changing face of armed conflict and the political dynamics of the international community. This article focuses on the challenges these kinds of issues can pose for one of the most fundamental principles of international humanitarian law: namely, the principle of distinction. International humanitarian law encourages a clear and reliable division between combatants and non-combatants. The principle of distinction requires combatants to distinguish at all times between military targets and civilian objects and stipulates that only military targets may be the object of attack. This is arguably the most important principle of the whole law of armed conflict. The principle is undermined if attacking forces cannot readily distinguish combatants from other parties.
Keywords: International humanitarian law, combatant status, principle of distinction
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