International Law’s Changing Terms: ‘War’ becomes ‘Armed Conflict

TitleInternational Law’s Changing Terms: ‘War’ becomes ‘Armed Conflict
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsMikos-Skuza, Elzbieta, and Mary Ellen O'Connell
Book TitleWhat Is War? An Investigation in the Wake of 9/11
Pagination19 - 30
PublisherBrill - Nijhoff
CityLeiden; Boston

International law has lacked a widely-accepted definition of armed conflict despite the essential human rights and other rules that depend on such a definition. During armed conflict, government forces have combatant immunity to kill without warning. They may detain enemy forces until the end of the conflict without the requirement to provide a speedy and fair trial. Governments may have asylum obligations or neutrality obligations based on the existence of armed conflict. To fill this gap in our knowledge of the law, the International Law Association's Committee on the Use of Force produced a report on the meaning of armed conflict. This book contains the report and papers delivered at an inter-disciplinary conference designed to inform the committee from a variety of perspectives. [UNC Chapel Hill Book Abstract]

A lot of confusion relating to the "war on terror" results from the efforts aiming at investing a special legal meaning to an expression that otherwise would be considered a rhetorical flourish. Actually "war on terror" is not a "war" in the legal sense, but a series of armed conflicts of international or non-international character or of other types of situations. In the period after World War II most of the conflicts were not called wars but armed conflicts. Other arguments raised with relation to the replacement of the term "war" by "armed conflict" refer to efforts to localize conflicts and prevent them attaining the dimension of a general war as well as to some problems generated by a formal status of neutrality that is possible only in a case of a formal status of war. [Brill Online Chapter Abstract]

URLDOI: 10.1163/9789047425816_004
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