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



Colombia, Response of armed groups to COVID-19

Iraq, IHL and Environmental protection

Yemen, UN Report on the Armed Conflicts since 2014

Israel/Lebanon/Hezbollah Conflict in 2006

South Africa, S. v. Petane

Case Study, Armed Conflicts in the former Yugoslavia

Former Yugoslavia, Special Agreements between the Parties to the Conflicts

ICTY, The Prosecutor v. Tadić

United States, Kadic et al. v. Karadzic

Case Study, Armed Conflicts in the Great Lakes Region (1994-2005)

ICTR, The Prosecutor v. Jean-Paul Akayesu

Switzerland, The Niyonteze Case

Colombia, Constitutional Conformity of Protocol II

Germany, Government Reply on the Kurdistan Conflict

Philippines, Application of IHL by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines

UN Security Council Resolution on the Conflict in Syria

Yemen, Obstructing Medical Care

UN, Secretary-General’s Reports on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

Geneva Call, Puntland State of Somalia adhering to a total ban on anti-personnel mines

Afghanistan, Code of Conduct for the Mujahideen (Arts 34-37, 46-47 and 67)

Health Care in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas

Turkey/Iraq, Turkish Military Operations in Northern Iraq

Engaging Non-state Armed Groups on the Protection of Children

Central African Republic, Coup d’Etat

United States, Use of Armed Drones for Extraterritorial Targeted Killings

The armed conflict in Syria

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health

United States of America, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project

Philippines, Armed Group Undertakes to Respect Children

Somalia, the fate of Children in the conflict

Syria, Code of Conduct of the Free Syrian Army

General Assembly, The use of drones in counter-terrorism operations

U.S., Lethal Operations against Al-Qa’ida Leaders

Syria, Press conference with French President Francois Hollande and Russian President Vladimir Putin

ICRC, International Humanitarian Law and the challenges of contemporary armed conflicts in 2015 (Paras. 70, 71, 82)

ICTY, The Prosecutor v. Radovan Karadzic

Libya, Report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (2014/15)

South Sudan: Medical Care Under Fire

Health Care in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas

Syria, Press conference with French President Francois Hollande and Russian President Vladimir Putin

Israel/Palestine, Operation Protective Edge (Gaza, 13 June - 26 August 2014)

Mali, Accountability for the Destruction of Cultural Heritage

Sweden/Syria, Can Armed Groups Issue Judgments?

Yemen, Potential Existence and Effects of Naval Blockade

United Kingdom, The Case of Serdar Mohammed (Court of Appeal and Supreme Court Judgments)

El Salvador, Supreme Court Judgment on the Unconstitutionality of the Amnesty Law

United States, Jurisprudence Related to the Bombing of the U.S.S. Cole

Central African Republic, Report of the UN Independent Expert, July 2016

Syria, Report by UN Commission of Inquiry (March 2017)

Afghanistan, Bombing of a Civilian Truck

Syria, the Battle for Aleppo

ICC, Confirmation of Charges against LRA Leader

Colombia Peace Agreement

UN/Colombia, Human Rights Committee Clarifications and Concluding Observations (2016)

International Criminal Court, Trial Judgment in the Case of the Prosecutor V. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo

Belgium, Prosecution of Terrorist Crimes in the context of Armed Conflict

Iraq, The Battle for Mosul

Germany, Aerial Drone Attack in Mir Ali/Pakistan

Eastern Ukraine, Attacks Against and Military Use of Schools

Eastern Ukraine, OHCHR Report on the Situation: November 2016 - February 2017

Syria, Syrian rebels treat captured Filipino soldiers as 'guests'

Mexico, The "War on Drugs"

Central African Republic/Democratic Republic of Congo/Uganda, LRA attacks

Iraq, Crimes by Militia Groups

Central African Republic, No Class: When Armed Groups Use Schools

South Sudan, AU Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan

Lake Chad Basin, Multinational Joint Task Force and Boko Haram

Cameroon, Dead and Missing Persons

Syria: Attacks on Oil Infrastructure

Eastern Ukraine: Detention And Death Sentences By Armed Groups

South Sudan, The Nuer “White Armies”

South Sudan, Activities of Oil Companies

Somalia/Kenya, Al-Shabab Attacks

Geneva Call and the Chin National Front


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