The “war on terror” was a term employed by the U. S. administration under President George W. Bush to describe the armed conflict it launched against Al-Qaeda and associated groups following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks against the U. S. It comprised of a military campaign against Afghanistan (which, at the time, was under the government of the Taliban, who were accused of harbouring Al-Qaeda leaders) and of attacks against or arrests of suspected Al-Qaeda members or other terrorists elsewhere in the world.

The Bush administration determined that its “war on terror” was neither an international nor a non-international armed conflict because Al-Qaeda was not a State party to the Geneva Conventions and the conflict went beyond the territory of one State. Furthermore, it held that its enemies in the conflict were neither combatants nor civilians but unlawful combatants who could be attacked at any time and detained indefinitely without trial. However, this approach was rejected by the US Supreme Court which ruled in the case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that every armed conflict which “does not involve a clash between nations” is “not of an international character”. The U.S., under the Obama administration, has abandoned the term “war on terror”. See Armed conflictDirect participation in hostilitiesInternational armed conflictNon-international armed conflictGeneva ConventionsAttacksTerrorism and terroristsInternationalized internal armed conflictCombatantsCiviliansUnlawful combatantsUnprivileged belligerentInternment





Suggested readings:

BELLAMY Alex J., “No Pain, No Gain? Torture and Ethics in the War on Terror”, in International Affairs, Vol. 82, No. 1, January 2006, pp. 121-146.   BOGAR Thomas, “Unlawful Combatant or Innocent Civilian? A Call to Change the Current Means for Determining Status of Prisoners in the Global War on Terror”, in Florida Journal of International Law, Vol. 21, No. 1, April 2009, pp. 29-91.   BORELLI Silvia, “Casting Light on the Legal Black Hole: International Law and Detentions Abroad in the ‘War on Terror’”, in IRRC, No. 857, March 2005, pp. 39-68.   BYERS Michael, “Terrorism, the Use of Force and International Law after 11 September”, in ICLQ, Vol. 51/2, 2002, pp. 401-414.   CASSESE Antonio, “Terrorism is also Disrupting Crucial Legal Categories of International Law”, in EJIL, Vol. 12/5, 2001, pp. 993-1001.   CONDORELLI Luigi & NAQVI Yasmin, “The War against Terrorism and Jus in Bello: Are the Geneva Conventions Out of Date?”, in BIANCHI Andrea (ed.), Enforcing International Law Norms against Terrorism, Oxford, Hart, 2004, pp. 25-37.   CORN Geoffrey S. & JENSEN Eric Talbot, “Transnational Armed Conflict: A ‘Principled’ Approach to the Regulation of Counter-Terror Combat Operations”, in Israel Law Review, Vol. 42, 2009, p. 46.   DUFFY Helen, “Human Rights Litigation and the ‘War on Terror’”, in IRRC, Vol. 90, No. 871, September 2008, pp. 573-597.   EMANUELLI Claude, “Faut-il parler d’une “guerre” contre le terrorisme?”, in Canadian Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 46, 2008, pp. 415-430.   EVANGELISTA Matthew, Law, Ethics, and the War on Terror, Cambridge, Malden, Polity, 2008, 202 pp.   FISCHER Miles P., “Legal Issues Surrounding Guantánamo Bay: Essay: Applicability of the Geneva Conventions to “Armed Conflict” in the War on Terror”, in Fordham International Law Journal, Vol. 30, No. 3, February 2007, pp. 509-534.   FORSYTHE David P., “United States Policy Toward Enemy Detainees in the “War on Terrorism””, in Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 2, May 2006, pp. 465-491.   GOLDSTONE Richard J., “Symposium: from Nuremberg to Abu Ghraib: the Relevance of International Criminal Law to the Global War on Terror”, in Michigan State Journal of International Law, Vol. 14, No. 1, 2006, pp. 1-138.   GRAHAM DAVID E., “The Law of Armed Conflict and the War on Terrorism”, in JACQUES Richard B. (ed.), Issues in International Law and Military Operations, in International Law Studies, Vol. 80, 2006, pp. 331-337.   GREENWOOD Christopher, “International Law and the ‘War against Terrorism’”, in International Affairs, Vol. 78/2, 2002, pp. 301-317.   JACKSON Jami Melissa, “The Legality of Assassination of Independent Terrorist Leaders: an Examination of National and International Implications”, in North Carolina Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation, Vol. 24/3, 1999, pp. 669-697.   KING Faiza Patel & SWAAK-GOLDMAN Olivia, “The Applicability of International Humanitarian Law to the ‘War against Terrorism’”, in Hague Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 15, 2002, pp. 39-49.   KRESS Klaus, “Some Reflections on the International Legal Framework Governing Transnational Armed Conflicts”, in Journal of Conflict & Security Law, Vol. 15, Issue 2, 2010, pp. 245-274.   LEWIS Michael W., The War on Terror and the Laws of War: a Military Perspective, New York, OUP, 2009, 248 pp.   McDONALD Neil & SULLIVAN Scott, “Rational Interpretation in Irrational Times: The Third Geneva Convention and War on Terror”, in Harvard International Law Journal, Vol. 44/1, 2003, pp. 301-316.   McDONALD Avril, “Declaration of War and Belligerent Parties: International Law Governing Hostilities Between States and Transnational Terrorist Networks”, in NetherlandsInternational Law Review, Vol. 54, No. 2 , 2007, pp. 279-314.   MILANOVIC Marko, “Lessons for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in the War on Terror: Comparing Hamdan and the Israeli Targeted Killings Case”, in IRRC, Vol. 89, No. 866, June 2007, pp. 373-393.   MURPHY Sean D., “Evolving Geneva Convention Paradigms in the ‘War on Terrorism’: Applying the Core Rules to the Release of Persons Deemed ‘Unpriviliged Combatants’”, in The George Washington Law Review, Vol. 75, No. 5/6, August 2007, pp. 1105-1164   O’CONNELL Mary Ellen, International Law and the “Global War on Terror”, Paris, Pedone, 2007, 93 pp.   PARKER Tom, “The Proportionality Principle in the War on Terror”, in Hague Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 15, 2002, pp. 3-15.   PETIT Françoise Camille, “Terrorisme et droit international humanitaire: quelles leçons tirer du statut controversé des prisonniers de Guantánamo ?”, in Droit et Défense, 2002/3, July-September 2002, pp. 25-32.   PLAW Avery, Targeting Terrorists: A License to Kill?, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2008, 294 pp.   RATNER Steven R., “Predator and Prey: Seizing and Killing Suspected Terrorists Abroad”, in Journal of Political Philosophy, September 2007, Vol. 15, Issue 3, pp. 251-275.   ROBERTS Adam, “The Laws of War in the War on Terror”, in IYHR, Vol. 32, 2002, pp. 193-245.   RONA Gabor, ‘‘Interesting Times for International Humanitarian Law: Challenges from the War on Terror’’, in The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Vol. 27, 2003. pp. 55-74.   RONA Gabor, “A Bull in a China Shop: The War on Terror and International Law in the United States”, in CaliforniaWestern International Law Journal, Vol. 39, Issue 1, 2008, pp. 135-159.   SASSÒLI Marco, “La ‘guerre contre le terrorisme’, le droit international humanitaire et le statut de prisonnier de guerre”, in CYIL, Vol. 39, 2001, pp. 211-252.   SASSÒLI Marco, “Use and Abuse of the Laws of War in the ‘War Against Terrorism’”, in Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice, Vol. 22, 2004, pp. 195-221.   SHANY Yuval, “Human Rights and Humanitarian Law as Competing Legal Paradigms for Fighting Terror”, in Hebrew UniversityInternational Law Research Paper, No. 23-09, 2009, 27 pp.   TIGROUDJA Hélène, “Quel(s) droit(s) applicable(s) à la ‘guerre au terrorisme’ ?”, in AFDI, Vol. 48, 2002, pp. 81-102.   TURNS David, “The Treatment of Detainees and the “Global War on Terror”: Selected Legal Issues”, in IYHR, Vol. 38, 2008, pp. 145-167.   VEUTHEY Michel, “Le droit international humanitaire face à la guerre contre le terrorisme”, in DOUCET Ghislaine (ed.), Terrorisme, victimes et responsabilité pénale internationale, Paris, Calmann-Lévy, 2003, pp. 516-529.   VIERUCCI Luisa, “Prisoners of War or Protected Persons qua Unlawful Combatants? The Judicial Safeguards to which Guantánamo Bay Detainees are Entitled”, in Journal of International Criminal Justice, Vol. 1/2, 2003, pp. 284-314.   WAXMAN Matthew C., “Detention as Targeting: Standards of Certainty and Detention of Suspected Terrorists”, in Columbia Law Review, 2008, Vol. 108, pp. 1365-1430   ZITTER Andrej, “Humanitarian Action on the Battlefields of Global War on Terror”, in The Journal of Humanitarian Assistance, October 2008, pp. 1-23