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IANAL, but I did read the Geneva convention's definition of combatants once, and there are a couple of provisions for non-uniformed combatants.

If non-uniformed combatants are used regularly by conventional armies, I believe that it is considered a war crime - i.o.w. they are combatants and when captured become PoWs, but can post-bellum be put on trial for war crimes.

If the non-uniformed combatants are irregulars - that is, militias, resistance groups, saboteurs and other armed groups that take up arms against an invading enemy when there is no time or opportunity to organise a conventional defence. They are combatants and thus become PoWs when captured, are subject to the laws of war, etc., etc.

To my admittedly non-lawyerly ears, the second part sounds like it fits the combatants captured in Afghanistan and Iraq pretty much perfectly.

The legal status of spies in wartime is somewhat unclear to me, as is the status of foreign nationals from third countries who travel to a belligerent country to throw bombs on their own private initiative.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Jun 15th, 2008 at 06:09:21 PM EST
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