The Law of War and Illegal Combatants
B.Revival of the Law of War
Before the terrorist attacks of 9/11, few took much interest in thelaw of war in spite of recurring African wars, the Gulf War, and theCroatian War of Independence in 1991. It took the 9/11 attacks towake up statesmen and academics alike to the importance of the lawof war. Now, a flood of books have been published on various aspectsof war, admittedly more on international relations and political as-pects than on international law. Furthermore, several universitiesnow organize courses and conferences on the law of war.However, conflicting tendencies show how international law isdemoted, for example, by recently having been made optional in thelaw syllabus of both Oxford and Cambridge. It is a concern to manythat students prefer to opt to study detailed bureaucratic rules of theEuropean Union rather than international law. Such trends havemoved the law of war even further down the list of academic priori-ties. The law of war should clearly form an integral part of courses oninternational law. However, this is rarely the case in law faculties,although international law should be a compulsory subject for all law-yers. Otherwise, how can judges or legal advisers to states deal withdisputes in due course if they have no academic knowledge of thisvital subject?Yet, it is actually a breach of international law not to teach anddispense the knowledge of the law of war. There is an obligationunder all the 1949 Geneva Conventions to teach the law of war so thatthe “entire population” is aware of the rules.
This duty applies intimes of peace as well as war and is not activated, like some otherprovisions in the Conventions, only at the outbreak of armed conflict.
States have blatantly ignored this obligation to promote the knowl-edge of the rules of the Geneva Conventions, for example, by not en-suring that the law of war is taught in universities and often not evento members of the armed forces. Furthermore, certain commentarieshave not been accurate in their representation of the law as it stands.
Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick inArmed Forces in the Field art. 47, Aug. 12, 1949, 6 U.S.T. 3114, 75 U.N.T.S. 31 [hereinafterConvention I]; Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick andShipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea art. 48, Aug. 12, 1949, 6 U.S.T. 3217, 75 U.N.T.S.85 [hereinafter Convention II]; Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War art. 127, Aug. 12, 1949, 6 U.S.T. 3316, 75 U.N.T.S. 135 [hereinafter Convention III]; GenevaConvention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War art. 144, Aug. 12, 1949,6 U.S.T. 3516, 75 U.N.T.S. 287 [hereinafter Convention IV].
, Convention I,
note 2, art. 3.
notes 42–58, 153–55, 215–12 and accompanying text.