Posted by: Tony Carson | 15 October, 2007

Are Blackwater gunmen ‘unlawful combatants?’

In what could prove to be a monumental irony, the same rules that the Bush Administration has concocted to hold prisoners in Guantanamo may be used in international courts to prosecute members of the US contract militia.

Here is the issue, as identified by the LA Times in America’s own unlawful combatants?

The designation of lawful and unlawful combatants is set out in the Geneva Convention. Lawful combatants are nonmilitary personnel who operate under their military’s chain of command. Others may carry weapons in a war zone but may not use offensive force. Under the international agreements, they may only defend themselves.

So, what’s up with Blackwater and the rest?

For a guard who is only allowed to use defensive force, killing civilians violates the law of war, said Michael N. Schmitt, a professor of international law at the Naval War College and a former Air Force lawyer. “It is a war crime to kill civilians unlawfully in an armed conflict,” he said.

“We are going to be hard-pressed to draw a distinction between the guys in Blackwater carrying automatic weapons and the bad guys setting bombs along the side of the road,” said John Hutson, a former top Navy lawye, now dean of Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire.

U.S. officials have described many of the suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban affiliates it holds at Guantanamo Bay as unlawful combatants either for taking part in hostilities against the United States or by supporting the hostilities while not part of a nation’s military.

By that standard, some of the private guards in Iraq and Afghanistan also could be seen as unlawful combatants, particularly if they have taken offensive action against unarmed civilians, experts said.



  1. And? Is this just a revelation you’ve had today?The whole PMC debacle is farcical as it is…seriously if the contracts exist then take the problem up with your government, not the people behind the rifle.

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