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The Responsibility of armed opposition groups for Violations of International Humanitarian Law: Challenging the State-Centric System of International Law

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Most of the present rules of international law regulate the behavior of States. Within States, however, there are other entities such as corporations, non–governmental organizations, individuals, international governmental organizations and armed opposition groups that are regulated by different national and international regimes. In this regard, non–State armed opposition groups present particular challenges to international law due to their dominant presence and participation in armed conflicts. Armed opposition groups are one of the most important actors in international humanitarian law today. Yet, taking into consideration that they a priori have certain international humanitarian obligations to fulfill, it remains unclear what the implications are when they, as a group, commit violations. Among these uncertainties, is that there is no formally recognized mechanism to attribute such breaches to the relevant non – state armed opposition group as such. In fact, unlike States, they have no organs. Similarly, there is also no consensus on circumstance that could preclude the wrongfulness of these breaches for armed opposition groups. By challenging the State–centric system of public international law, this article analyses the possible application of certain rules contained in the International Law Commission’s Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts (2001) to violations of international humanitarian law by armed opposition groups.

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