Michael Byers
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Terrorism, war and international law
in ‘War on terror’
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This chapter considers how the actions of the United States have stressed and stretched two distinct but related areas of international law: the right of self-defence, and the rules of international humanitarian law. It argues that even a disproportionately powerful state is constrained, in its ability to change international law, by the actions of other countries and public opinion both at home and abroad. The United States deliberately seek to modify international law in accordance with their changing interests by pushing for a right of self-defence against terrorism, or more flexible rules concerning the treatment of detainees. The George W. Bush administration relied on both this argument and pre-emptive self-defence to justify the 2003 Iraq War, while Britain and Australia relied solely on the resolutions. The Bush administration has already asserted that Iran is supporting terrorists who are attacking U.S. forces in Iraq, notably by providing sophisticated explosive devices.

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‘War on terror’

The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 2006



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