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Unlawful/Enemy Combatants: Interpretations and Consequences

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Chapter Summary

This chapter briefly examines the concepts of "combatant" and "unlawful combatant" under international humanitarian law. Combatants are persons who have the right to participate directly in hostilities. The issue of who is an "unlawful combatant" needs to be examined in relation to the rules governing both the conduct of hostilities and the treatment of persons in the power of the adversary. The chapter analyzes the idea of "enemy combatant" in the context of the "war on terrorism" with a view to suggesting a different legal reading of its elements. Enemy combatant is a colloquial phrase of wide ambit that may be used to describe a person fighting on the enemy side in an international armed conflict. The chapter concludes that the introduction of an "enemy combatant" designation would jeopardize the structure and rationale of existing international law rules governing the protection of persons.

Keywords: armed conflict; enemy combatant; international humanitarian law; unlawful combatant



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