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Lessons for human rights and humanitarian law in the war on terror: comparing Hamdan and the Israeli Targeted Killings case

30-06-2007 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 866, by Marko Milanovic

The article examines and compares two recent judgments which provide some of the most valuable examples of the difficulties surrounding the application of international humanitarian law to the phenomenon of terrorism: the Hamdan judgment of the Supreme Court of the United States, and the Targeted Killings judgment of the Supreme Court of Israel. Both judgments deal with the thresholds of applicability of the law of armed conflict, as well as with the concept of unlawful combatancy and the relationship between human rights law and humanitarian law.

   

Marko Milanovic
is Law Clerk to Judge Thomas Buergenthal, International Court of Justice. 

 
Abstract 
The article examines and compares two recent judgments which provide some of the most valuable examples of the difficulties surrounding the application of international humanitarian law to the phenomenon of terrorism: the Hamdan judgment of the Supreme Court of the United States, and the Targeted Killings judgment of the Supreme Court of Israel. Both judgments deal with the thresholds of applicability of the law of armed conflict, as well as with the concept of unlawful combatancy and the relationship between human rights law and humanitarian law. Both judgments are at times inconsistent and lacking in analysis, with the Hamdan judgment in particular misinterpreting the relevant international authorities, including the Commentaries on the Geneva Conventions. Despite these flaws, or because of them, both of these judgments remain instructive. The purpose of this article is to present the lessons for the future that these two decisions might bring to ongoing debates on the impact of global terrorism on the law of armed conflict.  

   
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