The Scope of Non-International Armed Conflicts and Geopolitics

What is International Humanitarian Law?

International humanitarian law (IHL), also known as martial law or law on armed conflict, is the legal framework for situations of armed conflict and occupation. As a set of rules and principles, its objective is to limit the impact of the armed conflict for humanitarian reasons.

The following two principles are fundamental to IHL:

  1. People who no longer participate in hostilities or who no longer need to be protected. and
  2. The right of the parties to an armed conflict to choose methods and methods of war is not unlimited.

IHL is part of international law. International law consists of a large number of treaties, customary law, principles, and norms. The framework traditionally only regulated relations between states. However, it has evolved to cover a wide range of actors. IHL is remarkable in this regard, as it recognizes the commitments for both state and non-state armed groups involved in an armed conflict.

[1]IHL regulates activities in armed conflict and situations of occupation. It is different from the law that regulates the use of the armed forces and is applied independently. This framework is known as jus ad Bellum and is enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations. It regulates the conditions under which violence can be used, in self-defense, and in accordance with the approval of the UN Security Council. Once there is an armed conflict, IHL applies to all parties, regardless of whether one of the parties had a legal right to use violence in accordance with the principles of ‘jus ad Bellum’. In essence, IHL represents a balance between military necessity and humanitarian considerations in the context of conflict.

Humanity as the cornerstone of IHL is the commandment during the conflict to alleviate suffering and save lives, and to treat each individual with humanity and respect. Military necessity is the justification for the measures necessary to achieve a military objective, provided that these measures comply with international humanitarian law. The balance between humanity and military necessity is shown in the basic rules of IHL for distinction and proportionality. The parties to an armed conflict must at all times differentiate between civilians and combatants and between civilian and military objects.

Additionally, an attack cannot be launched if it is expected to occasionally kill civilians, injure civilians, or damage civilian objects that would be excessively high relative to the expected direct military advantage. Other principles of IHL include the obligation to take precautions to protect the civilian population before and during an attack, inflicting prohibition, unnecessary suffering or unnecessary injury, and the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks.

What are Non-International Armed Conflicts (NIAC)?

Article 3, which is common to the four Geneva Conventions, negatively defines a NIAC as “an armed conflict that is not of an international nature”. So, if a non-governmental armed group is part of the armed conflict, it is classified as a NIAC. This may be the case, for example, when a state is fighting an armed group or when two non-state armed groups are fighting each other. Common Article 3 and customary international law would regulate both scenarios[2]. For Additional Protocol II to apply, certain requirements must be met. In armed conflict, a state must stand on one side and fight an armed group. This country must have signed Additional Protocol II to apply. Furthermore, the non-governmental armed group must organize under responsible command and exercise control over part of the territory so that the group can carry out military operations.

The use of the term “global war on terrorism” has led to some misunderstandings regarding the application of IHL in certain situations. The “global war on terror” is a political phrase, not a legal concept of art. Therefore, the “global war on terror” is not an armed conflict. The appropriate method of analyzing conflicts under this roof is to examine the location of the conflict (Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, etc.) and evaluate each to see if it is an IAC or NIAC, which are regulated by the relevant framework.

In addition, two requirements are required for such situations to be classified as non-international armed conflicts:

– Hostilities must reach a minimum level of intensity. This may be the case, for example, if the hostilities are collective in nature or if the government is obliged to use military force against insurgents instead of mere police forces.

– Non-conflict groups involved in the conflict must be seen as “parties to the conflict”, which means that they have organized forces. This means, for example, that these armed forces must have a specific command structure and must be able to maintain military operations.


Unlike violence between state armed forces, not all acts of violence within a state (even if directed against the security forces) constitute an armed conflict, so the level of violence required by IHL to use non-international armed conflicts is greater. then for the international armed conflict. Despite the extreme importance of defining this lower threshold, below which IHL does not apply at all, Article 3 does not provide a clear definition of the concept of non-international armed conflict. [3]

The need for a comprehensive definition of the concept of non-international armed conflict was reaffirmed during the diplomatic conference and was addressed accordingly in article 1 of Additional Protocol II. The ICC statute provides an intermediate application threshold. There is no need for conflict between government forces and rebel forces, for the latter to control part of the territory, or for there to be a responsible command. However, the conflict must continue and armed groups must organize. In our view, ICTY jurisprudence has replaced the protracted nature of the conflict with a requirement of intensity.

It requires a high degree of organization and violence so that each situation can be classified as armed conflict and not as an international conflict. Today there is a general trend to reduce the difference between IHL in international and non-international armed conflicts. The jurisprudence of international criminal courts, the influence of human rights, and even some treaty standards adopted by states have brought the law of non-international armed conflicts closer to the law of international armed conflicts and has even been pointed out in some areas.

The difference is being completely eliminated. In the many areas where contractual rules still differ, this convergence has been streamlined by claiming that, under customary international law, the differences between the two categories of conflict have gradually disappeared. After ten years of research, the ICRC study of international humanitarian law concludes that 136 (and probably 141) of the 161 rules of common humanitarian law, many of which are based on the rules of the international treaties. Protocol I, apply equally to international armed conflicts. not international armed conflicts.

What is Geopolitics?

[4]Geopolitics plays a role when actors such as political leaders, countries, organizations, and companies assess how their actions would affect other political leaders, countries, organizations, and companies. Geopolitics is by no means a new phenomenon in politics. Trying to anticipate the reaction of others in different parts of the world has been part of politics for thousands of years, but it has expanded since the beginning of the 20th century.

How does Geopolitics Work?

It is actually a bit complicated in its simplicity. A good way to explain this is to explain in detail what is required for geopolitics. For geopolitics, at least two actors must be geographically separated (generally in different countries or continents). Both (or more) actors must be aware. Geopolitics depends on this type of knowledge and geographic location.

[5]Mutual knowledge is important since this presupposes that both actors act strategically. For example, if two people owned parts of a forest, it can be assumed that both people are interested in how the other approaches fire protection since a fire could harm everyone’s land. Someone would be responsible. If no one knew of other owners, a fire could be treated as a force of nature.

But here’s the thing: Both actors must have the ability to interact. If both actors remain alone and do not disturb the world around them, geopolitics will not exist. How can actors interact? There are too many to name, but some examples of interactions you may be familiar with include trade, pollution, travel, and immigration.

The first two are easier to understand. If your country buys most of the products that my country manufactures, my country has a reason to be interested in your country’s policy. Also, my country can pass laws to ensure that our countries can get along. Consider this example pollution question: What would happen if your country polluted a river that flows downstream through three other countries? It could quickly become a serious political problem. Hence the reason why geopolitics is simple in its complexity: there is no easy answer to this question.

Scope of Geopolitics

Politics between nations have existed since ancient times. Given that one government has had to interact with another, whether due to a border dispute, rival claims for a resource, or fear of a powerful neighbor, some intergovernmental relations have been looking for ways to find mutually beneficial solutions. These relationships take various forms: exchanging diplomats, signing contracts, forming alliances, making accusations and threats, or sending an enemy army or navy. Philosophers have been dealing with such relationships for many centuries. For example, Plato’s Republic is his vision of the perfect society and he is partly concerned with how rulers should conduct state affairs. Scholars from all major empires and nations have tackled this topic, from Sun Tzu’s Art of War to Machiavelli’s Prince and Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations.

Today, a steady stream of foreign policy books and documents flows from the minds of experts, politicians, and scientists around the world. While there are many theories on international relations, the so-called geopolitical is perhaps the most pragmatic and even the most scientific. The central idea of ​​geopolitics is that geography, along with demography and the economy, is the determining factor in a nation’s relations. In other words, the location of a nation, along with the composition of its population and natural resources, indicates how it will act and respond on the world stage. In some cases, a nation has no choice but to behave in a certain way because of its location in the world.

Japan is an excellent example of geopolitical reality. It is a mountainous island nation with a relatively large, well-educated population and a high standard of living. However, it is resource-poor, particularly the natural resources that form the foundation of its high-tech industry. To feed and feed its population, it has to depend on other nations to provide a large amount of food and resources. So, geopolitics gives us a starting point to look at the world and try to predict the actions of nations. It is not perfect, and extraordinary personalities can emerge to shake the assumptions of even the most experienced observer.

[1] International humanitarian law by Marco Sassoli


[3] International humanitarian law by Marco Sassoli



This Article is Authored by UDITA PRAKASH, 2nd Year BBA LLB Student at UPES, Dehradun.

Also Read – The Responsibility of State Under International Law

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