Research Handbook on International Law and Terrorism
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Research Handbook on International Law and Terrorism

Edited by Ben Saul

This newly revised and updated second edition provides a comprehensive overview of international counter-terrorism law and practice. Brand new and revised chapters provide critical commentary on the law from leading scholars and practitioners in the field, including new topics for this edition such as foreign terrorist fighters, the nexus between organized crime and terrorism, and the prevention of violent extremism.
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Chapter 14: Terrorism and international humanitarian law

Ben Saul


This chapter focuses on the fundamental threshold issue when IHL applies to violence involving terrorism or terrorist groups, in the context of international or non-international armed conflicts. It includes a discussion of the particularly complex problem of ‘transnational’ violence and the geographical and temporal scope of hostilities. The chapter then briefly considers the legal consequences of the classification of conflicts, as regards targeting of ‘terrorists’ (as members of armed groups or as civilians otherwise taking a direct part in hostilities), security detention, substantive criminal liabilities (including the relationship of IHL to the offences under the international counter-terrorism conventions), and the procedure of criminal trials. It concludes with some observations about the impact of international counter-terrorism law on the effectiveness of IHL, including its balance between military necessity and humanitarian protection. This chapter argues that the challenge of contemporary terrorism has principally impelled a clarification of existing IHL norms but without generating terrorism-specific rules or refashioning the basic norms of IHL.

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