International Humanitarian Law in Modern Asymmetric Conflicts

Posted: 15 Jul 2005

See all articles by Stefan Kirchner

Stefan Kirchner

University of Lapland, Arctic Centre

Date Written: May 15, 2005


The wider war against terrorism which Israel has been fighting for a long time now has brought a fundamental shift to the way wars are waged. While violations of the laws of war, or International Humanitarian Law (IHL), used to be the exception, albeit one that occurred far too often, terrorists have chosen the violation of fundamental rules as their main weapon. The deliberate targeting of civilians and the manifold other intentional violations of the rules of warfare raise questions as to the enforcement of International Humanitarian Law in Modern Asymmetric Conflicts, which is particularly difficult since anti-terrorism forces cannot be allowed to violate International Humanitarian Law themselves in order to counter terrorist violations of the law, although this appear to happen time and again in the current conflict. It is argued in this paper that in order to avoid that anti-terror-forces fall down to the same level as terrorists who seek to sow fear into the hearts of innocent civilians and in order to bring about an end to the violations of IHL, a shift towards global culture of compliance is necessary, albeit possibly impossible to achieve.

Research on the paper initially began in the summer of 2001 with a view at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the time. The events of 9/11 overtook the completion of the paper which was - in its main parts - finished the day U.S. aircraft started to bomb Afghanistan.

Keywords: International, International Law, International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights, War, Terror, Terrorism, Israel, AlQaida, Afghanistan

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Kirchner, Stefan, International Humanitarian Law in Modern Asymmetric Conflicts (May 15, 2005). Available at SSRN: or

Stefan Kirchner (Contact Author)

University of Lapland, Arctic Centre ( email )

P.O. Box 122
Rovaniemi, Lapland 96101
+358404844001 (Phone)


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