IRRC No. 881

International law and armed non-state actors in Afghanistan

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An effective legal regime governing the actions of armed non-state actors in Afghanistan should encompass not only international humanitarian law but also international human rights law. While the applicability of Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions to the conflict is not controversial, how and to what extent Additional Protocol II applies is more difficult to assess, in particular in relation to the various armed actors operating in the country. The applicability of international human rights law to armed non-state actors – considered by the authors as important, particularly in Afghanistan – remains highly controversial. Nevertheless, its applicability to such actors exercising control over a population is slowly becoming more accepted. In addition, violations of peremptory norms of international law can also directly engage the legal responsibility of such groups.

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