Direct Participation in Hostilities

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Targeting Child Soldiers

Despite the numerous volume on child soldiers in legal literature over the last few decades, very little has been said on targeting child soldiers. It seems to be something international lawyers would rather not talk about. The fact that legal literature doesn’t say much about targeting child soldiers doesn’t mean that no such practice exists, or that soldiers haven’t discuss the matter. In 2002, the US Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory organised a ‘Cultural Intelligence Seminar’ on the implication of child soldiering for US forces. One trigger for that discussion was the fact that the very first US soldier killed in Afghanistan reportedly was a Special Forces Sergeant shot by a 14-year-old boy. The year before, in Sierra Leone, a squad from the Royal Irish Regiment was taken prisoner by a group consisting mostly of armed children called the West Side Boys, as the British soldiers were hesitant to open fire. After they had been held hostage for two weeks, an assault was launched by an SAS unit supported by suppression fire from helicopters, leading…

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Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict: Introduction to a Joint Blog Series

Over the next few weeks, three blog -  Lawfare, InterCross (the blog of the ICRC) and EJIL:Talk! - will host a joint blog symposium on International Law and Armed Conflict. The series will feature posts by some of the participants at the Third Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict, which…

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The Case of Russia’s Detention of Ukrainian Military Pilot Savchenko under IHL

There has been much debate in recent weeks over whether international humanitarian law (IHL) authorizes internment in non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) (see posts here, here and here). Both sides have presented convincing arguments but without applying them to concrete situations. In this regard, Russia’s ongoing detention of Ukrainian Air Force officer Nadia Savchenko provides a…

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IHL Does Not Authorise Detention in NIAC: A Reply to Sean Aughey and Aurel Sari  

As noted by Sean and Aurel, the appeals proceedings in Serdar Mohammed v Ministry of Defence have sparked a renewed debate about detention in non-international armed conflict (NIAC). They have set out their arguments in an interesting article and in summary form in this post. I am not convinced by their arguments though, and despite the…

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The UK’s Use of Drones in Afghanistan and Its Definition of “Civilians”

Last week, Ben Emmerson QC, the UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights announced that he was establishing a panel which will investigate allegations that drone strikes and other forms of remote targeted killing have caused disproportionate civilian casualties. The panel is charged with making recommendations regarding the obligation of States to conduct independent and impartial investigations into such allegations with a…

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