2. International armed conflict and non-international armed conflict
Today, there are two basic types of armed conflicts, to which a certain number of identical and a certain number of differentiated rules apply.1 One type is IAC (armed conflict between States), the other is NIAC (armed conflicts between governmental forces and insurgents or between armed groups).2 There are fewer rules applicable to NIACs than to IACs. More precisely, the basic law applicable to NIACs, namely common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, defines the scope of application of the rules it contains as being linked to armed conflicts “not of an international character”. This is a negative definition, which could seem to operate as a residual clause: all armed conflicts that are not international in nature (inter-State) must therefore perforce be covered by article 3. No gaps are left. AP II, supplementing and developing common article 3, does, however, limit its own scope of application to armed conflicts between the armed forces of a State party on the one side and dissident armed forces or other armed groups on the other side, if the latter exercise some degree of control over part of the State territory (article 1, § 1). AP II thus sets the scene for classical government/rebels armed conflicts, which are normally of a certain intensity. Moreover, common article 3 contains the restriction “occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties”. The meaning of that restriction is disputed.3 What if the United States (US) conducts an armed conflict against Taliban forces in Afghanistan or...
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