Armed conflicts, types of

Armed conflicts – a legal term used to refer to a situation of collective and organized violence between two counterparts – can be classified, depending on certain specific characteristics, into:

International armed conflicts: Those situations of organized and constant violence between two States, recognized as such in accordance with the norms of International Law (see International Law). It is important to highlight that, in accordance with International Humanitarian Law, wars of national liberation will be considered as international armed conflicts (Gutman and Rieff, 1999: 206-207).

Non-international or internal armed conflicts: Those situations of violence between the regular armed forces of a State and an irregular, organized armed group or militia, and/or between two irregular, organized armed groups and/or militias, in the territory of the same country. The term “non-international armed conflict” does not include situations of internal disturbances and tensions such as riots, sporadic and isolated acts of violence, or other similar acts (Gutman and Rieff, 1999: 206-207).

Internationalized armed conflicts: Those situations of violence that take place in the territory of a State and that, therefore, would initially be classified as non-international armed conflicts, in which another State is involved. The way in which said State may become involved in an internal armed conflict can be, for example, (i) the action of its troops in the territory where the conflict takes place, or (ii) if that second State participates in the conflict on behalf of either party (Human Rights Watch, 2004: 124).

These distinctions take on a particular legal importance since, depending on the type of conflict, the rules of applicable International Humanitarian Law will be determined.

Thus, the four Geneva Conventions (see International Humanitarian Law) will be applicable to an international conflict in general, while the First Additional Protocol of these conventions will be applicable to wars of national liberation or to situations of occupation of a territory by another State (despite the fact that this instrument contains norms that have been recognized as minimum protections in any type of international conflict).

For its part, to non-international armed conflicts, in general, Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions will be applied –known for being a “mini-treaty” within the conventions themselves– restricting the application of the Second Additional Protocol to the Conventions. of Geneva to certain non-international armed conflicts that meet certain characteristics. In accordance with article 1 of the Second Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, in order for it to be applied, the dissident armed groups must be organized under a responsible command, exercising control over a part of the state territory in a controlled manner. that allows them to carry out sustained and concrete military operations, in addition to having the capacity to apply the Protocol itself.