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The principle of distinction of International Humanitarian Law – challenges of contemporary armed conflicts

Author: Ioviţa Alexandrina
Degree:doctor of law
Speciality: 12.00.10 - International Public Law
Scientific adviser: Alexandru Burian
doctor habilitat, professor, Institute of History, State and Law of the ASM
Scientific council:


The thesis was presented on the 6 December, 2008
Approved by NCAA on the 26 February, 2009


Adobe PDF document0.30 Mb / in romanian


CZU 341.1/.8(043.3)

Adobe PDF document 1.05 Mb / in romanian
150 pages


principles of IHL; armed conflicts, 4th generation armed conflict, combatant, prisoner of war, civilian, direct participation in hostilities, military objective, civilian object, internal armed conflicts, internationalized armed conflicts, war against terrorism, asymmetrical armed conflicts


The thesis hereto examines the challenges of applying the principle of distinction in modern conflicts that depart from the traditional concept of armed conflict and increasingly affect civilians due to the departure form the traditional battlegrounds and increased complexity of actions that can constitute direct participation in hostilities. In this context, the fundamental distinction between combatants and civilians for ensuring the immunity of the latter from attack is of utmost importance and needs to adapt to the changing realities. The application of the principle of distinction is of relevance to Moldova in the context of the latent risk posed by the frozen conflict in the Transnistria region, but also by the around 140 ethnic-territorial conflicts in the post-Soviet countries. The escalation of the frozen conflict in Georgia in a full-fledged armed conflict in August 2008 represents a sad testimony of the importance of IHL in general and of the principle of distinction in particular. For the first time in the legal doctrine in Moldova, the author examines the defining characters of the principle of distinction, the relevant international and national normative framework, and existing problems in applying the principle. The main goal of the PhD thesis has been to carry out a complex and detailed research augmenting the respective issues. The author has analyzed the most relevant customary and conventional norms that pertain to the principle of distinction through the lenses of their application in the 4th generation armed conflicts.

The outcomes of the research can be further used in the higher education system by students, MA students, students pursuing a PhD, lecturers of law, international relations, political and administrative sciences. The thesis hereto can also serve as reference to the institutions mandated to implement IHL and as a source for improved legal conscience for all those that hold a vested interest in international public law and more particularly in those norms that are applied in armed conflicts.