1 August 2012

This book comprises contributions by leading experts in the field of international humanitarian law on the subject of the categorisation or classification of armed conflict.


Elizabeth Wilmhurst

Elizabeth Wilmshurst CMG

Distinguished Fellow, International Law Programme


This book comprises contributions by leading experts in the field of international humanitarian law on the subject of the categorisation or classification of armed conflict. It is divided into two sections: the first aims to provide the reader with a sound understanding of the legal questions surrounding the classification of hostilities and its consequences; the second includes ten case studies that examine practice in respect of classification. 

  • Detailed and comprehensive overview of all the legal issues involved in classifying conflicts either as international or non-international
  • Classification of recent conflicts, such as those in Libya, Afghanistan, Gaza, and the conflict with Al-Qaeda, demonstrate the uncertainty surrounding the conflicts
  • Detailed case studies, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Southern Lebanon, and Columbia, provide evidence of the practice of states and non-state armed groups
  • Explores the increasing overlap between international humanitarian law and international human rights law in situations of conflict

Understanding how classification operates in theory and practice is a precursor to identifying the relevant rules that govern parties to hostilities. With changing forms of armed conflict which may involve multi-national operations, transnational armed groups and organized criminal gangs, the need for clarity of the law is all-important. The case studies selected for analysis are Northern Ireland, DRC, Colombia, Afghanistan (from 2001), Gaza, South Ossetia, Iraq (from 2003), Lebanon (2006), the so-called war against Al-Qaeda, and future trends. The studies explore the legal consequences of classification particularly in respect of the use of force, detention in armed conflict, and the relationship between human rights law and international humanitarian law. The practice identified in the case studies allows the final chapter to draw conclusions as to the state of the law on classification.


Edited by Elizabeth Wilmshurst, Associate Fellow, Chatham House

Elizabeth Wilmshurst is Associate Fellow in International Law, at Chatham House and a visiting professor at University College, London University. She was a legal adviser in the UK diplomatic service between 1974 and 2003, during which time she was the Legal Adviser to the UK mission to the United Nations in New York between 1994 and 1997. She is a co-author of An Introduction to International Criminal Law and Procedure (2nd ed. Cambridge, 2010) and a co-editor of Perspectives on the ICRC Study on Customary International Humanitarian Law (Cambridge, 2007).


Dapo Akande, Co-Director of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, and Lecturer in Law, Oxford University
Louise Arimatsu, Associate Fellow, Chatham House
Annie Bird, London School of Economics
Lt Col Grant Davies, Army Legal Services officer in the British Army 
Francoise Hampson, formerly Professor of Law, University of Essex 
Steven Haines, Professor, Head of Security and Law Programme, Geneva Centre for Security Policy
Philip Leach, Professor of Human Rights, London Metropolitan University, Director, European Human Rights Advocacy Centre
Noam Lubell, Reader in Law, Essex University
Jelena Pejic, ICRC
Michael Schmitt, Chairman, International Law Department, United States Naval War College
Iain Scobbie, Sir Joseph Hotung Research Professor, SOAS, London University
Felicity Szenat, Essex University


The book is published by Oxford University Press.

For more information please contact Publications.