Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law, Vol. 13, Supplement (1983), pp. 313-314


I have detected in our deliberations this afternoon two ironies. The first is this: the dissentient receive more protection as enemies than as citizens. As we have heard today, there is greater opportunity for the assimilation of humanitarian law if the sides engaged in internal conflict are regarded as combatants and not as fellow citizens. With the application of the law of armed conflict comes the prospect that the opponents may observe some degree of mutual respect. Such dignity as the law accords thus becomes a function of formalized hostility rather than of civil affection, of open distrust rather than assumed trust. It is an odd lesson for law to teach--better enemy than friend. The second irony emerging from this afternoon's session is this: the opening to the civilizing influence of humanitarian law is also an opening to the uncivil involvement of other states. When internal struggles become the combat of enemies, they invite the assimilation of international humanitarian law of armed conflict. But then they also, at the same time, justify the intervention of states. With the intervention of other states comes the transformation and escalation of hostilities. Exactly opposing tendencies depend upon the same occasion of externalizing internal conflict.