Enhancing the Status of Non-State Actors through a Global War on Terror?

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Soon after September 11, President Bush declared a global war on terrorism and members of terrorist groups “combatants.” These declarations are not only generally inconsistent with international law; they also reverse the trend regarding the legal status of international non-state actors. For decades, law-abiding non-state actors, such as international humanitarian aid organizations, enjoyed ever-expanding rights on the international plane. Professor Schachter observed how this trend came at the expense of the nation-state. He also predicted, however, that the nation-state would not fade away any time soon. And, by the late Twentieth Century, the trend toward enhanced status was noticeably slowing. During this same period, international criminal organizations, such as terrorist groups, made little or no progress regarding international status. They remained firmly within national criminal law. That situation ended when the United States catapulted them to the international plane, enhancing their status at the United States’ cost.