"International law is actually not particularly ambiguous about the status of the members of al Qaeda. The Geneva Conventions do not apply to them because they have not adhered to a fundamental requirement of the Geneva Conventions, namely, identifying themselves as soldiers of an army. Doing so does not mean they must wear a uniform. The postwar Geneva Conventions make room for partisans, something older versions of the conventions did not. A partisan is not a uniformed fighter, but he must wear some form of insignia identifying himself as a soldier to enjoy the conventions' protections. As Article 4.1.6 puts it, prisoners of war include "Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war." The Geneva Conventions of 1949 does not mention, nor provide protection to, civilians attacking foreign countries without openly carrying arms.
During World War II, it was U.S. Army practice to hold perfunctory trials followed by executions. During the Battle of the Bulge, German commandos captured wearing U.S. uniforms — in violation of the Geneva Conventions — were summarily tried in field courts-martial and executed. The idea that such individuals were to be handed over to civilian courts was never considered. The actions of al Qaeda simply were not anticipated in the Geneva Conventions. And to the extent they were expected, they violated the conventions."