Illegal Combatants and the Law of Armed Conflict; Strategic Insights: v.2, issue 6 (August 2002)
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As a consequence of its operations in Afghanistan, the United States has found itself holding several hundred Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners whom it has identified as "illegal combatants." Similar status has also been ascribed to at least one American citizen, arrested by civil authorities, who is suspected of being part of the al-Qaida terrorist organization, and who is being treated, for the time being at least, as a subject of military justice. The classification of prisoners taken in Afghanistan as "illegal combatants" immediately attracted much scrutiny, in part because international law provides no precise definition of what such a categorization implies, and in part because its use in the present instance was intended to deprive Taliban and al-Qaida fighters of the protections afforded prisoners of war under the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Although United States officials have routinely referred to the struggle against terrorism as a "war," that characterization is, to all appearances, not acceptable when applied to the conduct of those on the other side.
This article appeared in Strategic Insights,Volume 2, Issue 6 (August 2002)
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