Exploring the International Humanitarian Law Status of Foreign Fighters in the Ukrainian International Legion of Territorial Defence





Mercenaries, combatants, prisoner of war, International Legion of Territorial Defence, Ukraine, Russia


This paper explores the international humanitarian law classification which applies to foreign fighters that have been enlisted in the Ukrainian International Legion of Territorial Defence pursuant to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The paper explains the legal rights, obligations and consequences which attach to mercenary, combatant and prisoner of war status; and explores how these foreign members of the Ukrainian International Legion of Territorial Defence fit into this legal landscape. This paper challenges the legality of Russia's decision to classify these individuals as mercenaries. The paper supports the argument that these foreign members of the Ukrainian International Legion of Territorial Defence are entitled to combatant status including full combatant immunity from prosecution upon capture. The paper explores the prisoner of war rights and protections which these individuals should be afforded upon capture and details their denial. The paper re-iterates the international humanitarian law fair trial guarantees which are activated when combatants fall into enemy hands and questions the procedural legality of the trials being conducted in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and Russia.


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Author Biography

Shannon Bosch, Edith Cowan University and University of Kwa-Zulu Natal

Shannon Bosch. BA (Hons) LLB (UKZN) LLM (Cambridge) PhD (UKZN). Associate Professor of Law at Edith Cowan University, Western Australia and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa.




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How to Cite

Bosch, S. (2024). Exploring the International Humanitarian Law Status of Foreign Fighters in the Ukrainian International Legion of Territorial Defence. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 27, (Published on 1 July 2024) pp 1–20. https://doi.org/10.17159/1727-3781/2024/v27i0a14600




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