Ordering the Grey Zone of Crisis and Conflict
: Re-thinking the Legal Regulation of Unconventional Conflicts

  • Michael John Hopkins

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The international normative framework relative to the regulation of means and methods of force is becoming more ‘population-centric’ in that both states and institutions of international civil society are ascribing greater weight to humanitarian considerations and individual rights. The material conditions as well as the strategic objectives of contemporary conflicts are two of the major driving forces behind this humanizing transformation. Contemporary jurisprudence, military doctrine and scholarly discourse recognize that the notion of a clear binary distinction between war and peace is untenable. In its place there is a growing appreciation of both the legal and the factual complexity of conflicts which can be described as full-spectrum, mixed or hybrid in character. Namely, in any given conflict there is likely to be a range of combat, law enforcement and humanitarian activities taking place simultaneously within a single operational theatre that can be characterized as urban, civilianized and transnational. The character of hostilities in these circumstances may frequently be described as unconventional, irregular and asymmetric and civilians are at extreme risk from the immediate and long term consequences of the use of force. Better objective criteria for conflict classification are needed to guide the application of the most appropriate and efficacious legal frameworks and for assessing the parameters of civilian immunity from attack. Connected to this, there needs to be progressive and principled interpretation and coordination of existing legal frameworks relative to the use of force, i.e. targeting and weaponry law. There are compelling theoretical, legal and strategic arguments for progressive reinterpretation of existing standards.
Date of Award20 Jul 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorChristopher Harding (Supervisor) & Ryszard Piotrowicz (Supervisor)

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