An “organized armed group” is the armed wing of a non-state party to a non-international armed conflict, and may be comprised of either:

  1. dissident armed forces (for example, breakaway parts of state armed forces); or
  2. other organized armed groups which recruit their members primarily from the civilian population but have developed a sufficient degree of military organization to conduct hostilities on behalf of a party to the conflict.

The term organized armed group refers exclusively to the armed or military wing of a non-state party to a non-international armed conflict. It does not include those segments of the civilian population that are supportive of the non-state party such as its political wing.

See also Non-international armed conflict




Suggested readings:

BASSIOUNI Cherif M., “The New Wars and the Crisis of Compliance with the Law of Armed Conflict by Non-State Actors”, in Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 98, No. 3, 2008, pp. 711-810.

CASSESE Antonio, “The Status of Rebels under the 1977 Geneva Protocol on Non-international Armed Conflicts”, in ICLQ, Vol. 30/2, 1981, pp. 416-439.

CLAPHAM Andrew, “Non-State Actors”, in CHETAIL Vincent (ed.), Post-conflict Peacebuilding: a Lexicon, Oxford, OUP, 2009, pp. 207-213.

CLAPHAM Andrew, The Rights and Responsibilities of Armed Non-State Actors: The Legal Landscape and Issues Surrounding Engagement, Geneva, Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, February 2010, 45 pp.

HENCKAERTS Jean-Marie, “Binding Armed Opposition Groups through Humanitarian Treaty Law and Customary Law”, in Proceedings of the BrugesColloquium, Relevance of International Humanitarian Law to Non-State Actors, 25th-26th October 2002, in Collegium No. 27, Spring 2003, pp. 123-138.

EWUMBUE-MONONO, “Respect for International Humanitarian Law by Armed Non-State Actors in Africa”, in IRRC, Vol. 88, No. 864, December 2006, pp. 905-924.

LA ROSA Anne-Marie & WUERZNER Carolin, “Armed Groups, Sanctions and the Implementation of International Humanitarian Law”, in IRRC, Vol. 90, No. 870, June 2008, pp. 327-341.

SASSÒLI Marco, “Taking Armed Groups Seriously: Ways to Improve Their Compliance with International Humanitarian Law”, in Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies, Vol. 1, 2010, pp. 5-51.

SASSÒLI Marco, “Possible Legal Mechanisms to Improve Compliance by Armed Groups with International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law”, 2003, Armed Groups Project, online:

SIVAKUMARAN Sandesh, “Binding Armed Opposition Groups”, in ICLQ, Vol. 55, Part 2, April 2006, pp. 369-394.

SIVAKUMARAN Sandesh, “Courts of Armed Opposition Groups: Fair Trials or Summary Justice?, in Journal of International Criminal Justice, Vol. 7, No. 3, July 2009, pp. 489-513.

SOMER Jonathan, “Jungle Justice: Passing Sentence on the Equality of Belligerents in Non-International Armed Conflict”, in IRRC, Vol. 89, No. 867, September 2007, pp. 655-690.

SZABLEWSKA Natalia, “Non-State Actors and Human Rights in Non-International Armed Conflicts”, in South African Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 32, 2007, pp. 345-360.

VEUTHEY Michel, “Le rôle des acteurs non étatiques dans le respect du droit international humanitaire”, in Annuaire français de relations internationales, Vol. 10, 2009, pp. 993-1117.

ZEGVELD Liesbeth, Accountability of Armed Opposition Groups in International Law, Cambridge, CUP, 2002, 260 pp.

Further readings:

HIGGINS Noëlle, “The Regulation of Armed Non-State Actors: Promoting the Application of the Laws of War to Conflicts Involving National Liberation Movements”, in Human Rights Brief, Vol. 17, Issue 1, 2009, pp. 12-18.

HOFMANN Claudia, “Engaging Non-State Armed Groups in Humanitarian Action”, in International Peacekeeping, Vol. 13, No. 3, September 2006, pp. 396-409.

TENEFRANCIA Roselle C., “A Breed of its Own: Characterizing the CARHRIHL as a Legal Document”, in Ateneo Law Journal, Vol. 54, 2009, pp. 149-163.

BELLINGER John [et al.], “War Bound by Law: Non-State Actors and the Law of Armed Conflict in the Twenty-First Century”, in Duke Journal of Comparative and International Law, Vol. 20, No. 3, 2010, pp. 331-471

CLAPHAM Andrew, “Non-State Actors”, in CHETAIL Vincent (ed.), Post-conflict Peacebuilding: a Lexicon, Oxford, OUP, 2009, pp. 200-213