Law enforcement in armed conflict (completed)

International law governs -in separate paradigms- the use of force aiming to uphold law and order, and to fight the enemy in an armed conflict. It is, however, unclear where and to whom the respective paradigm prevails, especially when terrorists are parties to the conflict. This raises complex legal challenges which form the core of Anna Andersson’s phd project.

About the project

States hold an obligation to maintain law and order in their territories and under their jurisdiction.  In the event of an armed conflict, this obligation is maintained albeit severely challenged. This challenge becomes most evident in non-international armed conflicts (conflicts involving one or several organized armed groups) on the State’s territory and in occupation by virtue of the Occupying Power’s obligation to uphold and ensure public order.

In such situations, the State engages in conduct of hostilities against combatants and/or ‘fighters’; perform ordinary law enforcement tasks without any link to the conflict; and undertake law enforcement operations which have a close connection to the conflict and risk surpass into warfare. The first type of operations is mainly governed by international humanitarian law, the second by human rights law, whilst the applicable legal regime for the third type of operations may shift during the course of the operation.

It is not clear under international law which paradigm applies when, where and to whom, and when an operation may move between legal regimes. In addition to theoretical issues on the relationship between these legal frameworks, this poses significant challenges for actors on the (battle) field. The situation becomes even more complex when the ‘fighters’ of the armed group are also labelled as terrorist under national law. These issues constitute the core of Anna Andersson’s PhD project.

In essence, Andersson’s PhD project examines international norms governing means and methods in operations which may be expected to move between law enforcement and conduct of hostilities. This encompasses an analysis of the regulation of norm conflicts in States’ choice of means (i.e. weapons) and methods (i.e. the law enforcement paradigm and conduct of hostilities paradigms), and the implications these choices may have for legality of such operations. Further, the purpose is to analyze developments in the relationship between international humanitarian law and human rights law in this area. The study is based on a traditional legal methodology with an approach of soft positivism.


Associate professor Ola Engdahl act as Anna Anderssons supervisor. 

Published May 13, 2016 1:01 PM - Last modified June 25, 2021 2:31 PM