U.s. Hypocrisy in the treatment of non-state actors in the war on terror

Abstract

This article begins by discussing various classifications of individuals under international humanitarian law, such as combatants, civilians, and mercenaries, in an attempt to determine which classification is appropriate for non-state actors involved in the "war on terror." Part II of this article details the classification of members of Al-Qaeda under international humanitarian law. The classification of certain individuals as "enemy combatants" is evidence of the limitations of the traditional law of war paradigm. The United States has relied on the ambiguous rights and responsibilities of non-states actors under international humanitarian law to argue that "enemy combatants" do not fall within the scope of the Geneva Conventions. Part III of this article analyzes the classification of employees of PMCs under international humanitarian law and concludes that employees of PMCs are non-state actors engaged in armed combat. Part IV of this article details methods of holding employees of PMCs accountable under U.S. law for human rights violations and Part V analyzes the difficulties in ensuring liability. Although laws exist in the United States to prosecute employees of PMCs, the United States has failed to prosecute any of these individuals, implying that the government is contracting legal services to shield its own illegal actions. This article concludes that the United States' treatment of members of Al-Qaeda in comparison to the United States' treatment of employees of PMCs is hypocritical. By claiming that members of Al-Qaeda are non-state actors who are not entitled to the protections of the laws of war, the U.S. government can engage in questionable interrogation practices that are otherwise prohibited. Meanwhile, the United States contracts private companies, which are also non-state actors, to conduct its sometimes-illegal military activities abroad because these companies distance the United States from direct liability. Additionally, the United States fails to prosecute these individuals based on various legal loopholes and a lack of willpower, implying that such prosecutions would reveal U.S. involvement in illegal action.

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