Combatant

Combatant is the legal status of an individual who has the right to engage in hostilities during an international armed conflict. The legal definition of "combatant" is found at article 43 of Additional Protocol One to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 [AP1]. It states that "Members of the armed forces of a Party to a conflict (other than medical personnel and chaplains covered by Article 33 of the Third Convention) are combatants, that is to say, they have the right to participate directly in hostilities." [1]

In addition to having the right to participate in hostilities, combatants have the right to status of Prisoners of War when captured during an international armed conflict. [2] " While all combatants are obliged to comply with the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, violations of these rules shall not deprive a combatant of his right to be a combatant or, if he falls into the power of an adverse Party, of his right to be a prisoner of war."[3]

Privileged combatants

The following categories of combatants qualify for prisoner-of-war status on capture:

  1. Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.
  2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that they fulfill the following conditions:
    • that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
    • that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
    • that of carrying arms openly;
    • that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
  3. Members of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government or an authority not recognized by the Detaining Power.
  4. Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war.

For countries which have signed the "Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts" (Protocol I), combatants who do not wear a distinguishing mark still qualify as prisoners of war if they carry arms openly during military engagements, and while visible to the enemy when they are deploying to conduct an attack against them.

Unprivileged combatants

There are several types of combatants who do not qualify as privileged combatants:

  • Combatants who would otherwise be privileged but have breached the laws and customs of war (e.g., feigning surrender or injury or killing enemy combatants who have surrendered).
  • Spies, mercenaries,[4] child soldiers, and civilians who take a direct part in combat and do not fall into one of the categories listed in the previous section, (For example, "[i]nhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces" would qualify as privileged combatants.).[5][6]

References

  1. ^ Additional Protocol One to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, Article 43.
  2. ^ Third Geneva Convention, Article 4(A)(1)
  3. ^ AP1, Art 44(2)
  4. ^ Under Article 47 of Protocol I (Additional to the Geneva Conventions) it is stated in the first sentence "A mercenary shall not have the right to be a combatant or a prisoner of war." On 4 December 1989 the United Nations passed resolution 44/34 the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries. It entered into force on 20 October 2001 and is usually known as the UN Mercenary ConventionInternational Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries A/RES/44/34 72nd plenary meeting 4 December 1989 (UN Mercenary Convention). Article 2 makes it an offence to employ a mercenary and Article 3.1 states that "A mercenary, as defined in article 1 of the present Convention, who participates directly in hostilities or in a concerted act of violence, as the case may be, commits an offence for the purposes of the Convention." – International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries Archived May 8, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ The relevance of IHL in the context of terrorism official statement by the ICRC 21 July 2005. "If civilians directly engage in hostilities, they are considered 'unlawful' or 'unprivileged' combatants or belligerents (the treaties of humanitarian law do not expressly contain these terms). They may be prosecuted under the domestic law of the detaining state for such action".
  6. ^ This point is found in Article 51.3 of the Geneva Conventions Protocol I "Civilians shall enjoy the protection afforded by this section, unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities". (Geneva Conventions Protocol I Article 51.3)
  7. ^ The exceptions are: "Nationals of a State which is not bound by the [Fourth Geneva] Convention are not protected by it. Nationals of a neutral State who find themselves in the territory of a belligerent State, and nationals of a co-belligerent State, shall not be regarded as protected persons while the State of which they are nationals has normal diplomatic representation in the State in whose hands they are." (GCIV Article 4)
Arleigh Burke-class destroyer

The Arleigh Burke class of guided missile destroyers (DDGs) is the United States Navy's first class of destroyer built around the Aegis Combat System and the SPY-1D multifunction passive electronically scanned array radar. The class is named for Admiral Arleigh Burke, an American destroyer officer in World War II, and later Chief of Naval Operations. The class leader, USS Arleigh Burke, was commissioned during Admiral Burke's lifetime.

These warships were designed as multimission destroyers, able to fulfill the strategic land strike role with Tomahawk missiles; antiaircraft warfare (AAW) role with powerful Aegis radar and surface-to-air missiles; antisubmarine warfare (ASW), with towed sonar array, anti-submarine rockets, and ASW helicopter; and antisurface warfare (ASuW) with Harpoon missile launcher. With upgrades to their AN/SPY-1 phased radar systems and their associated missile payloads as part of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, the ships of this class have also begun to demonstrate some promise as mobile antiballistic missile and anti-satellite weaponry platforms. Some versions of the class no longer have the towed sonar, or Harpoon missile launcher. Their hull and superstructure were designed to have a reduced radar cross-section.The first ship of the class was commissioned on 4 July 1991. With the decommissioning of the last Spruance-class destroyer, USS Cushing, on 21 September 2005, the Arleigh Burke-class ships became the U.S. Navy's only active destroyers, until the Zumwalt class became active in 2016. The Arleigh Burke class has the longest production run for any post-World War II U.S. Navy surface combatant. Besides the 62 vessels of this class (comprising 21 of Flight I, 7 of Flight II and 34 of Flight IIA) in service by 2016, up to a further 42 (of Flight III) have been envisioned.

With an overall length of 505 to 509 feet (154 to 155 m), displacement ranging from 8,315 to 9,200 tons, and weaponry including over 90 missiles, the Arleigh Burke class are larger and more heavily armed than most previous ships classified as guided missile cruisers.

Association of Combatant Clerics

The Association of Combatant Clerics (Persian: مجمع روحانیون مبارز‎, translit. majma'-e rowhāniyūn-e mobārez) is an Iranian reformist clerical political party.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) is, by U.S. law, the highest-ranking and senior-most military officer in the United States Armed Forces and is the principal military advisor to the President, the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense. While the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff outranks all other commissioned officers, the Chairman is prohibited by law from having operational command authority over the armed forces; however, the Chairman does assist the President and the Secretary of Defense in exercising their command functions.The Chairman convenes the meetings and coordinates the efforts of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), an advisory body within the Department of Defense comprising the Chairman, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Chief of Staff of the Army, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Chief of the National Guard Bureau. The post of a statutory and permanent Joint Chiefs of Staff chair was created by the 1949 amendments to the National Security Act of 1947. The 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act elevated the Chairman from the first among equals to becoming the "principal military advisor" to the President and the Secretary of Defense.

The Joint Staff, managed by the Director of the Joint Staff and consisting of military personnel from all the services, assists the Chairman in fulfilling his duties to the President and Secretary of Defense, and functions as a conduit and collector of information between the Chairman and the combatant commanders. The National Military Command Center (NMCC) is part of the Joint Staff operations directorate (J-3).

Although the office of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is considered very important and highly prestigious, neither the Chairman, the Vice Chairman, nor the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a body has any command authority over combatant forces. The Goldwater-Nichols Act places the chain of command from the President to the Secretary of Defense directly to the commanders of the Unified Combatant Commands. However the services chiefs do have authority over personnel assignments and oversight over resources and personnel allocated to the combatant commands within their respective services (derived from the service secretaries).

The Chairman may also transmit communications to the combatant commanders from the President and Secretary of Defense as well as allocate additional funding to the combatant commanders if necessary. The Chairman also performs all other functions prescribed under 10 U.S.C. § 153 or allocates those duties and responsibilities to other officers in the joint staff under his or her name.

Combatant Clergy Association

The Combatant Clergy Association (Persian: جامعۀ روحانیت مبارز‎, translit. jâmeʿe-ye rowhâniyat-e mobârez) is a politically active group in Iran, but not a political party in the traditional sense.

It has never been registered as a political party, however it acts as a fragmented caucus and has actively operated in the electoral arena, competing for votes. Thus, it is considered an elite party and can be classified as a political party according to the minimalist definition by Angelo Panebianco. The traditional conservative clerical association was the majority party in the fourth and fifth parliaments after the Islamic revolution.The organization has great influence over non-elective institutions such as the Judicial system, the Guardian Council and Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Combatant Status Review Tribunal

The Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT) were a set of tribunals for confirming whether detainees held by the United States at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp had been correctly designated as "enemy combatants". The CSRTs were established July 7, 2004 by order of U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz after U.S. Supreme Court rulings in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld and Rasul v. Bush and were coordinated through the Office for the Administrative Review of the Detention of Enemy Combatants.

These non-public hearings were conducted as "a formal review of all the information related to a detainee to determine whether each person meets the criteria to be designated as an enemy combatant." The first CSRT hearings began in July 2004. Redacted transcripts of hearings for "high value detainees" were posted to the Department of Defense (DoD) website. As of October 30, 2007, fourteen CSRT transcripts were available on the DoD website.

The Supreme Court of the United States found these tribunals to be unconstitutional in Boumediene v. Bush.

Enemy Combatant (book)

Enemy Combatant is a memoir by British Muslim, Moazzam Begg, co-written by Victoria Brittain, former Associate Foreign Editor for The Guardian, about Begg's detention by the government of the United States of America in Bagram Detention Facility and at Camp Echo, Guantanamo Bay and his life prior to that detention. It was published in Britain as Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim's Journey To Guantanamo and Back (ISBN 0-7432-8567-0), and in the US as Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guantanamo, Bagram, and Kandahar (ISBN 1-59558-136-7). In the US, the foreword was written by David Ignatius of The Washington Post.Begg was seized by Pakistani officers in Islamabad in February 2002, turned over to the U.S., and after prolonged sessions of interrogation, he was released from detention on 25 January 2005. According to statements made by the U.S. military, Begg was an enemy combatant and al-Qaeda member, who recruited others for al-Qaeda, provided money and support to al-Qaeda training camps, received extensive military training in al-Qaeda-run terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, and who was prepared to fight U.S. or allied troops.

Begg admits having spent time at two non-al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan in the 1990s, having supported Muslim fighters in Bosnia and Chechnya, and that he had "thought about" taking up arms in Chechnya. Also, that he had previously met people who have since been linked to terrorism (Khalil al-Deek, Dhiren Barot, and Shahid Akram Butt), but he denies ever having trained for, aided, carried out or planned any acts of terrorism.

Enemy combatant

An enemy combatant is a person who, either lawfully or unlawfully, directly engages in hostilities for an enemy state or non-state actor in an armed conflict. Prior to 2008, the definition was: "Any person in an armed conflict who could be properly detained under the laws and customs of war." In the case of a civil war or an insurrection the term "enemy state" may be replaced by the more general term "Party to the conflict" (as described in the 1949 Geneva Conventions Article 3).After the September 11 attacks, the term "enemy combatant" was used by the George W. Bush administration to include an alleged member of al-Qaeda or the Taliban being held in detention by the U.S. government as part of the war on terror. In this sense, "enemy combatant" actually refers to persons the United States regards as unlawful combatants, a category of persons who do not qualify for prisoner-of-war status under the Geneva Conventions. However, unlike unlawful combatants who qualify for some protections under the Fourth Geneva Convention, enemy combatants, under the Bush administration, were not covered by the Geneva Convention. Thus, the term "enemy combatant" has to be read in context to determine whether it means any combatant belonging to an enemy state or non-state actor, whether lawful or unlawful, or if it means an alleged member of al Qaeda or of the Taliban being detained as an unlawful combatant by the United States.

In the United States on March 13, 2009, the Obama administration announced its abandonment of the Bush administration's use of the term "enemy combatant".

Frogman

A frogman is someone who is trained in scuba diving or swimming underwater in a tactical capacity that includes police or military work. Such personnel are also known by the more formal names of combat diver, combatant diver, or combat swimmer. The word frogman first arose in the stage name The Fearless Frogman of Paul Boyton in the 1870s and later was claimed by John Spence, an enlisted member of the U.S. Navy, to have been applied to him while he was training in a green waterproof suit.The term frogman is occasionally used to refer to a civilian scuba diver. Some sport diving clubs include the word Frogmen in their names. The preferred term by scuba users is diver, but the frogman epithet persists in informal usage by non-divers, especially in the media and often referring to professional scuba divers, such as in a police diving role.In the U.S. military and intelligence community, divers trained in scuba or CCUBA who deploy for tactical assault missions are called "combat divers". This term is used to refer to the Navy SEALs/Naval Special Warfare, operatives of the CIA's Special Activities Division, elements of Marine Recon, Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpmen, Army Ranger Regimental Reconnaissance Company members, Army Special Forces divers, Air Force Pararescue, Air Force Combat Controllers, U.S. Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue Swimmers, United States Naval Search and Rescue Swimmers, United States Air Force Special Operations Weather Technicians, and the Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) units. In Britain, police divers have often been called "police frogmen".Some countries' tactical diver organizations include a translation of the word frogman in their official names, e.g., Denmark's Frømandskorpset; others call themselves "combat divers" or similar. Others call themselves by indefinite names such as "special group 13" and "special operations unit".Many nations and some irregular armed groups deploy or have deployed combat frogmen.

Military Commissions Act of 2006

The United States Military Commissions Act of 2006, also known as HR-6166, was an Act of Congress signed by President George W. Bush on October 17, 2006. The Act's stated purpose was "to authorize trial by military commission for violations of the law of war, and for other purposes".It was drafted following the Supreme Court's decision on Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006), which ruled that the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT), as established by the United States Department of Defense, were procedurally flawed and unconstitutional, and did not provide protections under the Geneva Conventions. It prohibited detainees who had been classified as enemy combatants or were awaiting hearings on their status from using habeas corpus to petition federal courts in challenges to their detention. All pending habeas corpus cases at the federal district court were stayed.

In Boumediene v. Bush (2008), the US Supreme Court held that section 7 of the MCA was unconstitutional because of its restrictions of detainee rights. It determined that detainees had the right to petition federal courts for habeas corpus challenges.

Non-combatant

Non-combatant is a term of art in the law of war and international humanitarian law, describing civilians who are not taking a direct part in hostilities; persons—such as combat medics and military chaplains—who are members of the belligerent armed forces but are protected because of their specific duties (as currently described in Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, adopted in June 1977); combatants who are placed hors de combat; and neutral persons not involved in fighting for one of the belligerents involved in a war. This particular status was first recognized under the Geneva Conventions with the First Geneva Convention of 1864.

Article 42 of Protocol I states that pilots and aircrews who are parachuting from aircraft in distress cannot be attacked regardless of what territory they are over. If pilots or aircrews land in territory controlled by the enemy, they must be given an opportunity to surrender before being attacked unless it is apparent that they are engaging in a hostile act or attempting to escape. Airborne forces who are descending by parachute from an aircraft, whether it is disabled or not, are not given the protection afforded by this Article and, therefore, may be attacked during their descent unless they are hors de combat.

Article 50 of Protocol 1 defines a civilian as a person who is not a privileged combatant. Article 51 describes the protection that must be given to civilians (unless they are unprivileged combatants) and civilian populations. Chapter III of Protocol I regulates the targeting of civilian objects. Article 8(2)(b)(i) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court also prohibits attacks directed against civilians.

While not all states have ratified Protocol I or the Rome Statute, these provisions reiterated existing customary laws of war which is binding of all belligerents in an international conflict.Article 3 in the general section of the Geneva Conventions states that in the case of armed conflict not of an international character (occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties) that each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions to "persons taking no active part in the hostilities" (non-combatants). Such persons shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, with the following prohibitions:

(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) taking of hostages;

(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

Special warfare combatant-craft crewmen

The Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC ) is a United States Naval Special Warfare Command team that operates and maintains an inventory of small craft used to conduct special operations missions, particularly those of the U.S. Navy SEALs. Individually, SEALs and SWCC go through similar but separate specialized training programs both based in Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. SWCC training emphasizes special operations in the maritime environment. SWCC are trained extensively in crafts and weapons tactics, techniques, and procedures. Focusing on clandestine infiltration and exfiltration of SEALs and other special operations forces, SWCC provide dedicated, rapid mobility in shallow water areas where large ships cannot operate.Their capabilities include Direct Action through coastline or rivers (such as strikes, captures, and ship take downs by Visit, Board, Search and Seizure), Special Reconnaissance, Coastal Patrol and Interdiction of suspect ships and surface craft. SWCC specialize in swift mobility; due to this, they also have a high level of training in tactical driving and convoy operations. They've done many missions alongside SEALs from providing reconnaissance to clandestine infiltration and hot extractions.

Unified combatant command

A unified combatant command (UCC) is a United States Department of Defense command that is composed of forces from at least two Military Departments and has a broad and continuing mission. These commands are established to provide effective command and control of U.S. military forces, regardless of branch of service, in peace and war. They are organized either on a geographical basis (known as "area of responsibility", AOR) or on a functional basis, such as special operations, power projection, or transport. UCCs are "joint" commands with specific badges denoting their affiliation.

The creation and organization of the unified combatant commands is legally mandated in Title 10, U.S. Code Sections 161–168.The Unified Command Plan (UCP) establishes the missions, command responsibilities, and geographic areas of responsibility of the unified combatant commands. As of May 2018, there are ten unified combatant commands. Six have regional responsibilities, and four have functional responsibilities. Each time the Unified Command Plan is updated, the organization of the combatant commands is reviewed for military efficiency and efficacy, as well as alignment with national policy.

Each unified command is led by a combatant commander (CCDR), who is a four-star general or admiral. CCDRs exercise combatant command (COCOM), a specific type of nontransferable command authority over assigned forces, regardless of branch of service, that is vested only in the CCDRs by federal law in 10 U.S.C. § 164. The chain of command for operational purposes (per the Goldwater–Nichols Act) goes from the President through the Secretary of Defense to the combatant commanders.

United States Central Command

The United States Central Command (USCENTCOM or CENTCOM) is a theater-level Unified Combatant Command of the U.S. Department of Defense. It was established in 1983, taking over the previous responsibilities of the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF).

The CENTCOM Area of Responsibility includes the Middle East, including Egypt in Africa, and Central Asia, most notably Afghanistan and Iraq. The command has been the main American presence in many military operations, including the Persian Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm, 1991), the War in Afghanistan, and the Iraq War (2003–2011). As of 2015, CENTCOM forces are deployed primarily in Afghanistan (Operation Freedom's Sentinel, part of NATO's Resolute Support Mission, 2015–present), Iraq and Syria (Operation Inherent Resolve, 2014–present) in supporting and advise-and-assist roles.

As of 28 March 2019, CENTCOM's commander was General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., U.S. Marine Corps.

Of all six American regional unified combatant commands, CENTCOM is among the three with headquarters outside its area of operations (the other two being USAFRICOM and USSOUTHCOM). CENTCOM's main headquarters is located at MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa, Florida. A forward headquarters was established in 2002 at Camp As Sayliyah in Doha, Qatar, which in 2009 transitioned to a forward headquarters at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

United States Northern Command

United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) is a Unified Combatant Command of the U.S. military tasked with providing military support for non-military authorities in the U.S., and protecting the territory and national interests of the United States within the continental United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, The Bahamas, and the air, land and sea approaches to these areas. It is the U.S. military command which, if applicable, would be the primary defender against an invasion of the United States.

USNORTHCOM was created on 25 April 2002 when President George W. Bush approved a new Unified Command Plan, following the September 11 attacks. USNORTHCOM went operational on 1 October 2002.

The support that USNORTHCOM provides to non-military authorities in the U.S. is legally limited by the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which restricts the role of the U.S. military in domestic law enforcement. However, in case of national emergency, natural or man-made, its Air Forces Northern National Security Emergency Preparedness Directorate will take charge of the situation or event.

United States Space Command

The United States Space Command (USSPACECOM) was a Unified Combatant Command of the United States Department of Defense, created in 1985 to coordinate the use of outer space by the United States Armed Forces. The Commander in Chief of U.S. Space Command (CINCUSSPACECOM) also functioned as the Commander in Chief of the binational U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command (CINCNORAD), and for the majority of time during USSPACECOM's existence, was also as the Commander of Air Force Space Command.

In 2018, it was announced that U.S. Space Command would be reactivated as a unified combatant command.

United States Strategic Command

United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) is one of ten unified commands in the United States Department of Defense. Headquartered at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, USSTRATCOM is responsible for strategic deterrence, global strike, and operating the Defense Department's Global Information Grid. It also provides a host of capabilities to support the other combatant commands, including strategic warning; integrated missile defense; and global command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR). This dynamic command gives national leadership a unified resource for greater understanding of specific threats around the world and the means to respond to those threats rapidly.

United States Transportation Command

The United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) is one of ten unified commands of the United States Department of Defense. The command is located at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, and was established in 1987.

This command is the single manager of the United States' global defense transportation system. USTRANSCOM is tasked with the coordination of people and transportation assets to allow the US to project and sustain forces, whenever, wherever, and for as long as they are needed. The commanding officer of USTRANSCOM is Army General Stephen R. Lyons, the first commander who is not a United States Air Force officer.

Unlawful combatant

An unlawful combatant, illegal combatant or unprivileged combatant/belligerent is a person who directly engages in armed conflict in violation of the laws of war or is fighting outside of internationally recognized military forces. An unlawful combatant may be detained or prosecuted under the domestic law of the detaining state for such action, subject to international treaties on justice and human rights.

The Geneva Conventions apply in wars between two or more sovereign states. Article 5 of the Third Geneva Convention states that the status of a detainee may be determined by a "competent tribunal". Until such time, he must be treated as a prisoner of war. After a "competent tribunal" has determined that an individual detainee is an unlawful combatant, the "detaining power" may choose to accord the detained unlawful combatant the rights and privileges of a prisoner of war as described in the Third Geneva Convention, but is not required to do so. An unlawful combatant who is not a national of a neutral state, and who is not a national of a co-belligerent state, retains rights and privileges under the Fourth Geneva Convention so that he must be "treated with humanity and, in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial".While the concept of an unlawful combatant is included in the Third Geneva Convention, the phrase itself does not appear in the document. Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention does describe categories under which a person may be entitled to POW status, and there are other international treaties that deny lawful combatant status for mercenaries and children. In the United States, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 codified the legal definition of this term and invested the U.S. President with broad discretion to determine whether a person may be designated an unlawful enemy combatant under United States law. The assumption that such a category as unlawful combatant exists is not contradicted by the findings of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Celebici Judgment. The judgment quoted the 1958 International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) commentary on the Fourth Geneva Convention: Every person in enemy hands must be either a prisoner of war and, as such, be covered by the Third Convention; or a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention. Furthermore, "There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can be outside the law", because in the opinion of the ICRC, "If civilians directly engage in hostilities, they are considered 'unlawful' or 'unprivileged' combatants or belligerents (the treaties of humanitarian law do not expressly contain these terms). They may be prosecuted under the domestic law of the detaining state for such action".

The Geneva Conventions do not recognize any lawful status for combatants in conflicts not involving two or more nation states, such as during civil wars between government's forces, and insurgents. A state in such a conflict is legally bound only to observe Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and may ignore all of the other Articles. But each one of them is completely free to apply all or part of the remaining Articles of the Convention.

Warship

A warship or combatant ship is a naval ship that is built and primarily intended for naval warfare. Usually they belong to the armed forces of a state. As well as being armed, warships are designed to withstand damage and are usually faster and more manoeuvrable than merchant ships. Unlike a merchant ship, which carries cargo, a warship typically carries only weapons, ammunition and supplies for its crew. Warships usually belong to a navy, though they have also been operated by individuals, cooperatives and corporations.

In wartime, the distinction between warships and merchant ships is often blurred. In war, merchant ships are often armed and used as auxiliary warships, such as the Q-ships of the First World War and the armed merchant cruisers of the Second World War. Until the 17th century it was common for merchant ships to be pressed into naval service and not unusual for more than half a fleet to be composed of merchant ships. Until the threat of piracy subsided in the 19th century, it was normal practice to arm larger merchant ships such as galleons. Warships have also often been used as troop carriers or supply ships, such as by the French Navy in the 18th century or the Japanese Navy during the Second World War.

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