The Regulation of Armed Non-State Actors: Promoting the Application of the Laws of War to Conflicts Involving National Liberation Movements


Higgins, Noelle (2009) The Regulation of Armed Non-State Actors: Promoting the Application of the Laws of War to Conflicts Involving National Liberation Movements. Human Rights Brief, 17 (1). pp. 12-18. ISSN 1533-6808

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Abstract

The regulation of armed non-state actors is a challenge to the state-centric international law paradigm. The vast majority of international legal instruments which impact the regulation of armed actors are open to ratification by states only. This leads to the unfortunate situation in which armed nonstate actors often fall outside the remit of international law and their use of force and, indeed, the use of force against them, is left unregulated, which can only be to the detriment of combatants and civilians alike. However, there is an emerging trend, led by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Geneva Call, to accommodate non-state actors under the international humanitarian law (IHL) framework. This article seeks to investigate how non-state actors, specifically national liberation movements, are and could be regulated by IHL. It seeks to give an overview of the relevant legal provisions and illustrates the difficulties faced by national liberation movements if they do wish to accede to IHL instruments and apply IHL in their conflicts. As it is the aim of IHL to protect both combatants and civilians in armed conflicts, it is important that this body of law is practically applied and implemented in all conflict situations to the greatest extent possible. However, in the past, national liberation movements have encountered difficulties when seeking to apply IHL to their conflicts due to the nature of the legal framework and, indeed, the nature of international law itself. International law, the body of law that governs states in their relationships with one another, generally struggles to accommodate non-state actors. The international legal instruments dealing with the laws of war, namely the Geneva Conventions of 1949,1 the Hague Regulations of 1907,2 and more modern international conventions seeking to regulate weapons such as the Ottawa Treaty of 1997 banning landmines,3 were all drafted by states with the regulation of states in mind. These instruments almost exclusively limit ratification to states and do not allow for the accession of non-states. This means that non-state actors, including national liberation movements, face many difficulties when seeking to be bound by and apply IHL provisions in their conflicts, thus limiting the protection available to those fighting and caught up in these conflicts. However, non-state actors are active in various theatres of war and it is therefore vital that a realistic IHL framework that accommodates non-state actors be formulated.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Law; Regulation; Armed Non-State Actors; Laws of War; Conflict; National Liberation Movements; International Humanitarian Law; International Committee of the Red Cross; Geneva Call;
Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Law
Item ID: 5674
Depositing User: Noelle Higgins
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2015 12:59
Journal or Publication Title: Human Rights Brief
Publisher: Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
Refereed: No
URI:

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