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International Review of the Red Cross, 2009, No. 873 – Typology of armed conflicts

This edition focuses on legal classification of armed conflict, which is critical in determining the obligations that arise for parties to a conflict. Qualifying a situation as an armed conflict to which international humanitarian law applies is an essential but delicate matter, considered to be the Achilles' heel of this legal regime. As conflicts increasingly involve non-state entities and have transnational dimensions, they also challenge the distinction between international and non-international armed conflicts. The current edition considers whether and how today's warfare fits into traditional legal categories, in order to determine which law protects the victims of these situations.

Issue No. 873 - 2009

Theme: Typology of armed conflicts

Table of contents

  • Editorial - IRRC March 2009 No 873
    Toni Pfanner
  • Interview with Professor Peter Wallensteen
    Professor Peter Wallensteen is Professor of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, Sweden, as well as Research Professor of Peace Studies at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame, USA. He is the director and founder of the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, which records ongoing conflicts and collects information on a range of aspects of armed violence.
  • The impurity of war
    François-Bernard Huyghe
    War and armed conflicts have broken out of their classic mould, become hybrid and gone beyond their previous boundaries. The author argues for an updated polemology which endeavours to explain the mechanisms of these new types of warfare.
  • Timelines, borderlines and conflicts: The historical evolution of the legal divide between international and non-international armed conflicts
    Rogier Bartels
    The legal divide between international and non-international armed conflicts still exists, despite calls for its removal and the confusion created by 'transnational' conflicts involving non-state entities. This article explains the divide historically, discusses its continued relevance, and examines how certain situations could be classified in the existing typology.
  • Typology of armed conflicts in international humanitarian law: legal concepts and actual situations
    Sylvain Vité
    International humanitarian law does not contain precise enough criteria to determine which situations fall within its material field of application, as the reality of armed conflict is more complex than the categories anticipated by IHL. This article sets out to show how these categories can be interpreted in light of recent international legal developments, and examines various controversial cases of application.
  • Asymmetrical war and the notion of armed conflict – An attempt at a conceptualization
    Andreas Paulus and Mindia Vashakmadze
    States across the globe are increasingly involved in violent conflicts with non-state groups, both within and across borders. This article seeks to conceptualize the notion of armed conflict, examine the extent to which the existing body of humanitarian law applies to the new asymmetrical conflicts, and analyse the "triggering mechanism" of IHL in these situations.
  • Armed violence in fragile states: Low-intensity conflicts, spillover conflicts, and sporadic law enforcement operations by third parties
    Robin Geiss
    The process of state failure is commonly accompanied by armed violence, which generally oscillates around the level required to trigger the application of IHL and has cross-border spillover effects. This article examines the specific issues raised by qualification of armed violence in fragile states – in particular, the application of IHL to sporadic law enforcement operations by third parties.
  • Classifying the conflict: A soldier's dilemma
    Andrew Carswell
    Modern armed forces are employed in a wide array of operations that range from peacetime riot control to outright international armed conflict. This article describes the challenges faced by the military leadership in classifying these various scenarios to determine the applicable international law.
  • The absorption of grave breaches into war crimes law
    Marko Divac Öberg
    This article compares the concepts, scopes of application and procedural regimes of war crimes and grave breaches. It considers what role remains for the latter in international criminal law, finding that although it is too early to discount grave breaches, they are likely to become confined to history.
  • National implementation of international humanitarian law – Biannual update, July to December 2008
    Biannual update on national legislation and case law July–December 2008
  • Books and articles
    Recent acquisitions of the Library & Research Service