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   VOLUME   91
FEATURE ARTICLES
Is There a Way Out of the Non-International Armed Conflict Detention Dilemma?
Gabor Rona
Detention in non-international armed conflicts (NIACs, or wars fought between States and non-State armed groups) is a time-honored military and humanitarian necessity. And yet, the principles of sovereignty, the texts of the law of armed conflict and international human rights law and the historical record leave little doubt: international law recognizes no inherent detention power in such wars. As long as NIACs were purely internal civil wars, there was little basis to question the exclusive role of domestic law in regulating detention of the enemy. With the advent of transnational NIACs, such as the war in Afghanistan involving multi-national forces against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the legal playing field becomes more complicated. State practice has lacked coherence. Still, domestic law, as tempered by due process requirements of international human rights law, remains the most rational source of regulation for NIAC detention.
Targeting and Detention in NIACs: Serdar Mohammed and the Limits of Human Rights Convergence
Sean Aughey and Aurel Sari
In recent years, the United Kingdom has seen a steady flow of legal challenges arising out of its involvement in the armed conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Among these, the case of Serdar Mohammed, decided by the English High Court in May 2014, is of particular interest because of its wider implications. In essence, the High Court’s judgment in Mohammed questions the existence of a legal basis under the law of armed conflict for the conduct of status-based operations in non-international armed conflicts. This article demonstrates that the restrictive approach adopted by the High Court in Mohammed is mistaken as a matter of law and undesirable as a matter of policy. In short, Mohammed drives the convergence between international human rights law and the law of armed conflict too far.
Defensive Force against Non-State Actors: The State of Play
Monica Hakimi
This article assesses the implications of the current Syria situation for the international law on the use of defensive force against non-State actors. The law in this area is highly unsettled, with multiple legal positions in play. After mapping the legal terrain, the article shows that the Syria situation accentuates three preexisting trends. First, the claim that international law absolutely prohibits the use of defensive force against non-State actors is increasingly difficult to sustain. States, on the whole, have supported the operation against the so-called Islamic State in Syria. Second, States still have not coalesced around a legal standard on when such force is lawful. Most States seem conflicted or uncertain on that question. Third, this ambivalence has contributed to a sizable gap between the norms that are most often articulated as law and the ones that are operational. States regularly tolerate operations that they are unwilling to legitimize with legal language.