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Dirty War

The history of modern wars has been marked by the fact that most take place within states and that these conflicts have an abundance of violations of both human rights and humanitarian law, principally, the abuse of captured, surrendered or wounded enemy soldiers and the civilian population. The conflict in Colombia is typical: none of the warring parties respect the neutrality of the civilian population in contested territory. This is one kind of dirty war. The other kind is a highly skewed conflict in which only one side can be said to be really armed. That would be typical of the events that unfolded in Chile and Argentina especially in the 1970s, in which military juntas declared themselves to be in states of war and proceeded to exterminate their political opponents through outright executions, but more often through "disappearances," a practice of unacknowledged detention, execution, and disposal of the body.