Annual Survey of International & Comparative Law


Catherine Bloom


The 2006 conflict between Hezbollah and Israel questions an important, yet unclear part of international humanitarian law. Specifically, what would Hezbollah' s legal classification be if another armed conflict were to arise between Israel and Lebanon? Would Hezbollah be considered a State or non-State actor? If Hezbollah is a non-State actor, would the group be considered "guerrillas"? Would the term "mercenary" be a better fit? In attempting to answer some of these questions, we must first look at what exactly occurred between Israel and Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Second, we must understand who Hezbollah is and how the group fits in with Lebanon. Third, we need to examine what kinds of rules of international humanitarian law govern both international and intra-national armed conflicts. Specifically, the Hague Conventions, the Geneva Conventions, international agreements between Lebanon and Israel, and international customary law. Only then will we be ready to investigate the various implications Hezbollah's classification has on the laws of armed conflict. This will primarily be accomplished by initially looking at which of the Geneva Conventions apply based on whether Hezbollah is a State or non-State actor. A more complex argument is whether Hezbollah is indeed a Lebanese State actor. However, since the law in this sphere is still being defined, we will continue by examining Hezbollah's classification assuming they are non-State actor. Therefore, an analysis of Hezbollah as a guerrilla group and one comprised of mercenaries will follow. Finally, we will look to see how domestic law fits in with international humanitarian law, and whether the former can help adjudicate either party in a future conflict.