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Fighting at the Legal BoundariesControlling the Use of Force in Contemporary Conflict$
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Kenneth Watkin

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190457976

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190457976.001.0001

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Non-State Actors and Armed Conflict

Non-State Actors and Armed Conflict

(p.327) 9 Non-State Actors and Armed Conflict
Fighting at the Legal Boundaries

Kenneth Watkin

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the lack of legal consensus regarding how non-State violence is categorized and the requirement to determine when the thresholds for an armed conflict are met. The complexity of non-State actor conflict has resulted in an array of legal interpretations regarding conflict categorization. Non-State actor violence is variously linked to inter-State conflict, categorized as a conflict having an international character, as “extraterritorial law enforcement”, transnational armed conflict, or as noninternational armed conflict. In applying a “totality of the circumstances” approach and other recognized criteria, the threshold for armed conflict is demonstrated to be lower than sometimes suggested. The lack of agreement on the approach to be adopted when assessing non-State actor conflict points to the traditional interpretations of criteria developed pre-9/11 to categorize conflict being ill-suited to assess this form of contemporary violence.

Keywords:   civil and political rights, non-State actors, international law, armed conflict, human rights, terrorism, insurgents and insurrection, humanitarian law

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