Contemporary international conflicts are witnessing an increasing involvement of civilians — such as, for example, suicide bombers — in the conduct of hostilities. Unlike regular soldiers, however, whose job it is to fight, civilians are not allowed to participate in combat and may be tried under ordinary criminal law for such activity. The question that this paper will attempt to answer is whether in the case where their engagement may lead to gross violations of humanitarian principles, they may be additionally subject to war crimes proceedings pursuant to international humanitarian law (IHL).
In order to assess the applicability of the war crimes' regime to civilians, this paper will be structured as follows. Part 2 will define who is a civilian. Part 3 will examine the position of international jurisprudence and doctrine on the question whether civilians may also be liable for war crimes and under what conditions. The fourth part will draw the conclusions.