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Wilmshurst (ed): International Law and the Classification of Conflicts

Published on August 20, 2012        Author: 

I am delighted to report that Oxford University Press have recently published International Law and the Classification of Conflicts which is edited by Elizabeth Wilmshurst and which I contributed a chapter to.

This book comprises contributions by leading experts in the field of international humanitarian law on the subject of the categorisation or classification of armed conflict. It is divided into two sections: the first aims to provide the reader with a sound understanding of the legal questions surrounding the classification of hostilities and its consequences; the second includes ten case studies that examine practice in respect of classification.

Understanding how classification operates in theory and practice is a precursor to identifying the relevant rules that govern parties to hostilities. With changing forms of armed conflict which may involve multi-national operations, transnational armed groups and organized criminal gangs, the need for clarity of the law is all-important. The case studies selected for analysis are Northern Ireland, DRC, Colombia, Afghanistan (from 2001), Gaza, South Ossetia, Iraq (from 2003), Lebanon (2006), the so-called war against Al-Qaeda, and future trends. The studies explore the legal consequences of classification particularly in respect of the use of force, detention in armed conflict, and the relationship between human rights law and international humanitarian law. The practice identified in the case studies allows the final chapter to draw conclusions as to the state of the law on classification.

My own chapter, “Classification of Armed Conflicts: Relevant Legal Concepts“, provides an overview of how and why international law classifies situations of violence for the purpose of application of international humanitarian law. The chapter examines the distinction between international and non-international armed conflicts as well as the distinction between armed conflicts and situations of violence that do not qualify as armed conflicts. The chapter examines the history of the distinction between the two categories of armed conflict, the consequences of the distinction and whether the distinction still has validity. The chapter discusses the meaning of the concepts of ‘international armed conflict’ and ‘non-international armed conflict’, including the legal standards by which such qualifications are to be made. Particular attention is paid to foreign intervention in non-international armed conflicts, extraterritorial hostilities by one State against a non-state armed group and conflicts in which multinational forces are engaged. I quoted extensively from that chapter in one of my previous posts on extraterritorial conflicts with non-State groups.

Unlike many edited books where authors write in isolation with little interaction among them, the process of writing this book involved genuine and repeated exchange of ideas. The book resulted out of a project at Chatham House led by Elizabeth Wilmhurst and the authors had many meetings at Chatham House to discuss and review our chapters. We concluded the proces with a weekend workshop in Oxford (hosted by the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict). It was a real pleasure to work with Elizabeth and the rest of the group, which included people like Mike Schmitt (US Naval War College), Jelena Pejic (ICRC), Francoise Hampson (Essex University), Iain Scobbie (SOAS, London) and Noam Lubell (also at Essex).

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3 Responses

  1. Dan Joyner Dan Joyner

    Wow, this looks really great. Such an important and extremely useful topic, and a great set of authors. A really useful contribution to scholarship.

    I’m going to be teaching the jus in bello as a stand alone class for the first time this Spring, and I’ll definitely be using this at least for my education, and likely requiring some reading from it by the students.

    Congratulations to Elizabeth and to all the authors!
    Dan Joyner

  2. Marko Divac Oberg Marko

    Dapo, is your paper on SSRN the final version of the chapter or will there be further revisions?

  3. Dapo Akande Dapo Akande

    Marko, The paper on SSRN is pretty close to the final version. It’s the version sent out just before the proofs stage. I think I made some minor corrections to the proof but nothing too significant.