Laws of war

Laws of war

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The law of war is a body of law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

 concerning acceptable justifications to engage in war
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

 (jus ad bellum
Jus ad bellum
Jus ad bellum is a set of criteria that are to be consulted before engaging in war, in order to determine whether entering into war is permissible; that is, whether it is a just war....

) and the limits to acceptable wartime conduct (jus in bello). The law of war is considered an aspect of public international law (the law of nations) and is distinguished from other bodies of law, such as the domestic law of a particular belligerent to a conflict, that may also provide legal limits to the conduct or justification of war.

Amongst other issues, modern laws of war address declarations of war
Declaration of war
A declaration of war is a formal act by which one nation goes to war against another. The declaration is a performative speech act by an authorized party of a national government in order to create a state of war between two or more states.The legality of who is competent to declare war varies...

, acceptance of surrender
Surrender (military)
Surrender is when soldiers, nations or other combatants stop fighting and eventually become prisoners of war, either as individuals or when ordered to by their officers. A white flag is a common symbol of surrender, as is the gesture of raising one's hands empty and open above one's head.When the...

 and the treatment of prisoners of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

; military necessity
Military necessity
Military necessity, along with distinction, and proportionality, are three important principles of international humanitarian law governing the legal use of force in an armed conflict.-Attacks:...

, along with distinction and proportionality; and the prohibition of certain weapons that may cause unnecessary suffering.

Early sources and history


Attempts to define and regulate the conduct of individuals, nations, and other agents in war and to mitigate the worst effects of war have a long history. The earliest known instances are found in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). For example, Deuteronomy 20:19-20 limits the amount of acceptable collateral and environmental damage:
Similarly, Deuteronomy 21:10-14 requires that female captives who were forced to marry the victors of a war could not be sold as slaves.

In the early 7th century, the first Caliph
Caliph
The Caliph is the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the ruler of the Islamic Ummah, an Islamic community ruled by the Shari'ah. It is a transcribed version of the Arabic word   which means "successor" or "representative"...

, Abu Bakr
Abu Bakr
Abu Bakr was a senior companion and the father-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He ruled over the Rashidun Caliphate from 632-634 CE when he became the first Muslim Caliph following Muhammad's death...

, whilst instructing his Muslim army
Rashidun army
The Rashidun Caliphate Army or Rashidun army was the primary military body of the Rashidun Caliphate's armed forces during the Muslim conquests of the 7th century, serving alongside the Rashidun Navy...

, laid down the following rules concerning warfare:
In medieval Europe
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 also began promulgating teachings on just war
Just War
Just war theory is a doctrine of military ethics of Roman philosophical and Catholic origin, studied by moral theologians, ethicists and international policy makers, which holds that a conflict ought to meet philosophical, religious or political criteria.-Origins:The concept of justification for...

, reflected to some extent in movements such as the Peace and Truce of God
Peace and Truce of God
The Peace and Truce of God was a medieval European movement of the Catholic Church that applied spiritual sanctions in order to limit the violence of private war in feudal society. The movement constituted the first organized attempt to control civil society in medieval Europe through non-violent...

. The impulse to restrict the extent of warfare, and especially protect the lives and property of non-combatant
Non-combatant
Non-combatant is a term in the law of war describing civilians not taking a direct part in hostilities, as well as persons such as medical personnel and military chaplains who are regular soldiers but are protected because of their function as well as soldiers who are hors de combat ; that is, sick,...

s continued with Hugo Grotius
Hugo Grotius
Hugo Grotius , also known as Huig de Groot, Hugo Grocio or Hugo de Groot, was a jurist in the Dutch Republic. With Francisco de Vitoria and Alberico Gentili he laid the foundations for international law, based on natural law...

 and his attempts to write laws of war.

Modern sources


The modern law of war is derived from two principal sources:
  • Lawmaking treaties
    Treaty
    A treaty is an express agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations. A treaty may also be known as an agreement, protocol, covenant, convention or exchange of letters, among other terms...

    (or conventions) — see the section below called "International treaties on the laws of war".
  • Custom. Not all the law of war derives from or has been incorporated in such treaties, which can refer to the continuing importance of customary law. (see Martens Clause
    Martens Clause
    The Martens Clause was introduced into the preamble to the 1899 Hague Convention II – Laws and Customs of War on Land.The clause took its name from a declaration read by Fyodor Fyodorovich Martens, the Russian delegate at the Hague Peace Conferences 1899 and was based upon his words:The...

    ). Such customary international law
    Customary international law
    Customary international law are those aspects of international law that derive from custom. Along with general principles of law and treaties, custom is considered by the International Court of Justice, jurists, the United Nations, and its member states to be among the primary sources of...

     is established by the general practice of nations together with their acceptance that such practice is required by law.


Positive
Positive law
Positive law is the term generally used to describe man-made laws which bestow specific privileges upon, or remove them from, an individual or group...

 international humanitarian law
International humanitarian law
International humanitarian law , often referred to as the laws of war, the laws and customs of war or the law of armed conflict, is the legal corpus that comprises "the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions, as well as subsequent treaties, case law, and customary international law." It...

 consists of treaties
Treaty
A treaty is an express agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations. A treaty may also be known as an agreement, protocol, covenant, convention or exchange of letters, among other terms...

 (international agreements) which directly affect the laws of war by binding consenting nations and achieving widespread consent—see the section below called "International treaties on the laws of war".

The opposite of positive laws of war is customary laws of war, many of which were explored at the Nuremberg War Trials. These laws define both the permissive rights of states as well as prohibitions on their conduct when dealing with irregular forces
Irregular military
Irregular military refers to any non-standard military. Being defined by exclusion, there is significant variance in what comes under the term. It can refer to the type of military organization, or to the type of tactics used....

 and non-signatories.

The Lieber Code
Lieber Code
The Lieber Code of April 24, 1863, also known as Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field, General Order № 100, or Lieber Instructions, was an instruction signed by President Abraham Lincoln to the Union Forces of the United States during the American Civil War...

, promulgated by the Union during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, was critical in the development of the laws of land warfare. Historian Geoffrey Best called the period from 1856 to 1909 the law of war’s “epoch of highest repute.” The defining aspect of this period was the establishment, by states, of a positive legal or legislative foundation (i.e., written) superseding a regime based primarily on religion, chivalry, and customs. It is during this “modern” era that the international conference became the forum for debate and agreement between states and the “multilateral treaty” served as the positive mechanism for codification.

In addition, the Nuremberg War Trial judgment on "The Law Relating to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity" held, under the guidelines Nuremberg Principles
Nuremberg Principles
The Nuremberg principles were a set of guidelines for determining what constitutes a war crime. The document was created by the International Law Commission of the United Nations to codify the legal principles underlying the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi party members following World War II.- Principle...

, that treaties like the Hague Convention of 1907, having been widely accepted by "all civilised nations" for about half a century, were by then part of the customary laws of war and binding on all parties whether the party was a signatory to the specific treaty or not.

Interpretations of international humanitarian law change over time and this also affects the laws of war. For example Carla Del Ponte
Carla Del Ponte
Carla Del Ponte is a former Chief Prosecutor of two United Nations international criminal law tribunals. A former Swiss attorney general, she was appointed prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in August...

, the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
The International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991, more commonly referred to as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia or ICTY, is a...

 pointed out in 2001 that although there is no specific treaty ban on the use of depleted uranium
Depleted uranium
Depleted uranium is uranium with a lower content of the fissile isotope U-235 than natural uranium . Uses of DU take advantage of its very high density of 19.1 g/cm3...

 projectiles, there is a developing scientific debate and concern expressed regarding the effect of the use of such projectiles and it is possible that, in future, there may be a consensus view in international legal circles that use of such projectiles violate general principles of the law applicable to use of weapons in armed conflict. This is because in the future it may be the consensus view that depleted uranium projectiles breaches one or more of the following treaties: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the Charter of the United Nations; the Genocide Convention
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948 as General Assembly Resolution 260. The Convention entered into force on 12 January 1951. It defines genocide in legal terms, and is the culmination of...

; the United Nations Convention Against Torture
United Nations Convention Against Torture
The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is an international human rights instrument, under the review of the United Nations, that aims to prevent torture around the world....

; the Geneva Conventions
Geneva Conventions
The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment of the victims of war...

 including Protocol I
Protocol I
Protocol I is a 1977 amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts. It reaffirms the international laws of the original Geneva Conventions of 1949, but adds clarifications and new provisions to accommodate developments in modern...

; the Convention on Conventional Weapons of 1980; the Chemical Weapons Convention
Chemical Weapons Convention
The Chemical Weapons Convention is an arms control agreement which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. Its full name is the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction...

; and the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material
Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material
The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material was adopted on 26 October 1979 in Vienna, Austria. The initial signing ceremony took place in Vienna and at New York on 3 March 1980, and the convention entered into force on 8 February 1987. The convention is deposited with the...

.

Purposes of the laws


Some of the central principles underlying laws of war are:
  • Wars should be limited to achieving the political goals that started the war (e.g., territorial control) and should not include unnecessary destruction.
  • Wars should be brought to an end as quickly as possible.
  • People and property that do not contribute to the war effort should be protected against unnecessary destruction and hardship.


To this end, laws of war are intended to mitigate the hardships of war by:
  • Protecting both combatant
    Combatant
    A combatant is someone who takes a direct part in the hostilities of an armed conflict. If a combatant follows the law of war, then they are considered a privileged combatant, and upon capture they qualify as a prisoner of war under the Third Geneva Convention...

    s and noncombatants from unnecessary suffering.
  • Safeguarding certain fundamental human rights
    Human rights
    Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

     of persons who fall into the hands of the enemy, particularly prisoners of war, the wounded and sick, and civilians.
  • Facilitating the restoration of peace
    Peace
    Peace is a state of harmony characterized by the lack of violent conflict. Commonly understood as the absence of hostility, peace also suggests the existence of healthy or newly healed interpersonal or international relationships, prosperity in matters of social or economic welfare, the...

    .

Example substantive laws of war


To fulfill the purposes noted above, the laws of war place substantive limits on the lawful exercise of a belligerent’s power. Generally speaking, the laws require that belligerents refrain from employing violence
Violence
Violence is the use of physical force to apply a state to others contrary to their wishes. violence, while often a stand-alone issue, is often the culmination of other kinds of conflict, e.g...

 that is not reasonably necessary for military purposes and that belligerents conduct hostilities with regard for the principles of humanity
Compassion
Compassion is a virtue — one in which the emotional capacities of empathy and sympathy are regarded as a part of love itself, and a cornerstone of greater social interconnection and humanism — foundational to the highest principles in philosophy, society, and personhood.There is an aspect of...

 and chivalry
Chivalry
Chivalry is a term related to the medieval institution of knighthood which has an aristocratic military origin of individual training and service to others. Chivalry was also the term used to refer to a group of mounted men-at-arms as well as to martial valour...

.

However, because the laws of war are based on consensus, the content and interpretation of such laws are extensive, contested, and ever-changing. The following are particular examples of some of the substance of the laws of war, as those laws are interpreted today.

Declaration of war


Some treaties, notably the United Nations Charter (1945) Article 2, and other articles in the Charter, seek to curtail the right of member states to declare war; as does the older Kellogg-Briand Pact
Kellogg-Briand Pact
The Kellogg–Briand Pact was an agreement signed on August 27, 1928, by the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Weimar Germany and a number of other countries.The pact renounced war , prohibiting the use of war...

 of 1928 for those nations who ratified it.

Lawful conduct of belligerent actors


Modern laws of war regarding conduct during war (jus in bello), such as the 1949 Geneva Conventions, provide that it is unlawful for belligerents to engage in combat without meeting certain requirements, among them the wearing of a distinctive uniform
Uniform
A uniform is a set of standard clothing worn by members of an organization while participating in that organization's activity. Modern uniforms are worn by armed forces and paramilitary organizations such as police, emergency services, security guards, in some workplaces and schools and by inmates...

 or other distinctive signs visible at a distance, and the carrying of weapons openly. Impersonating soldiers of the other side by wearing the enemy's uniform is allowed, though fighting in that uniform is unlawful perfidy
Perfidy
In the context of war, perfidy is a form of deception, in which one side promises to act in good faith with the intention of breaking that promise once the enemy has exposed himself .The practice is specifically prohibited under the 1977 Protocol I Additional to the...

, as is the taking of hostage
Hostage
A hostage is a person or entity which is held by a captor. The original definition meant that this was handed over by one of two belligerent parties to the other or seized as security for the carrying out of an agreement, or as a preventive measure against certain acts of war...

s.

Red Cross, Red Crescent and the white flag


Modern laws of war, such as the 1949 Geneva Conventions, also include prohibitions on attacking doctors
Physician
A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...

, ambulance
Ambulance
An ambulance is a vehicle for transportation of sick or injured people to, from or between places of treatment for an illness or injury, and in some instances will also provide out of hospital medical care to the patient...

s or hospital ship
Hospital ship
A hospital ship is a ship designated for primary function as a floating medical treatment facility or hospital; most are operated by the military forces of various countries, as they are intended to be used in or near war zones....

s displaying a Red Cross, a Red Crescent or other emblem related to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is an international humanitarian movement with approximately 97 million volunteers, members and staff worldwide which was founded to protect human life and health, to ensure respect for all human beings, and to prevent and alleviate human...

. It is also prohibited to fire at a person or vehicle bearing a white flag
White flag
White flags have had different meanings throughout history and depending on the locale.-Flag of temporary truce in order to parley :...

, since that indicates an intent to surrender or a desire to communicate.

In either case, persons protected by the Red Cross/Crescent or white flag are expected to maintain neutrality, and may not engage in warlike acts; in fact, engaging in war activities under a protected symbol is itself a violation of the laws of war known as perfidy
Perfidy
In the context of war, perfidy is a form of deception, in which one side promises to act in good faith with the intention of breaking that promise once the enemy has exposed himself .The practice is specifically prohibited under the 1977 Protocol I Additional to the...

. Failure to follow these requirements can result in the loss of protected status and make the individual violating the requirements a lawful military target.

Applicability to states and individuals


The law of war is binding not only upon States as such but also upon individuals and, in particular, the members of their armed forces
Armed forces
The armed forces of a country are its government-sponsored defense, fighting forces, and organizations. They exist to further the foreign and domestic policies of their governing body, and to defend that body and the nation it represents from external aggressors. In some countries paramilitary...

. Parties are bound by the laws of war to the extent that such compliance does not interfere with achieving legitimate military goals. For example, they are obliged to make every effort to avoid damaging people and property not involved in combat, but they are not guilty of a war crime if a bomb mistakenly hits a residential area.

By the same token, combatants that intentionally use protected people or property as shields or camouflage are guilty of violations of laws of war and are responsible for damage to those that should be protected.

Remedies for violations


During conflict, punishment
Punishment
Punishment is the authoritative imposition of something negative or unpleasant on a person or animal in response to behavior deemed wrong by an individual or group....

 for violating the laws of war may consist of a specific, deliberate and limited violation of the laws of war in reprisal
Reprisal
In international law, a reprisal is a limited and deliberate violation of international law to punish another sovereign state that has already broken them. Reprisals in the laws of war are extremely limited, as they commonly breached the rights of civilians, an action outlawed by the Geneva...

.

Soldier
Soldier
A soldier is a member of the land component of national armed forces; whereas a soldier hired for service in a foreign army would be termed a mercenary...

s who break specific provisions of the laws of war lose the protections and status afforded as prisoners of war, but only after facing a "competent tribunal" (GC III
Third Geneva Convention
The Third Geneva Convention, relative to the treatment of prisoners of war, is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It was first adopted in 1929, but was significantly updated in 1949...

 Art 5). At that point they become an unlawful combatant
Unlawful combatant
An unlawful combatant or unprivileged combatant/belligerent is a civilian who directly engages in armed conflict in violation of the laws of war. An unlawful combatant may be detained or prosecuted under the domestic law of the detaining state for such action.The Geneva Conventions apply in wars...

 but they must still be "treated with humanity and, in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial", because they are still covered by GC IV
Fourth Geneva Convention
The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, commonly referred to as the Fourth Geneva Convention and abbreviated as GCIV, is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It was adopted in August 1949, and defines humanitarian protections for civilians...

 Art 5. For example in 1976 foreign soldiers fighting for FNLA were captured by the MPLA in the civil war that broke out when Angola
Angola
Angola, officially the Republic of Angola , is a country in south-central Africa bordered by Namibia on the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the north, and Zambia on the east; its west coast is on the Atlantic Ocean with Luanda as its capital city...

 gained independence from Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 in 1975. In the Luanda Trial
Luanda Trial
The Luanda Trial was a trial held in Luanda, Angola in June and July 1976 by the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola , recently victorious in the Angolan War of Independence, to prosecute thirteen foreign mercenaries who had served its defeated rival, the National Liberation Front of...

, after "a regularly constituted court" found them guilty of being mercenaries
Mercenary
A mercenary, is a person who takes part in an armed conflict based on the promise of material compensation rather than having a direct interest in, or a legal obligation to, the conflict itself. A non-conscript professional member of a regular army is not considered to be a mercenary although he...

, three Britons and an American were shot by a firing squad on July 10, 1976. Nine others were imprisoned for terms of 16 to 30 years.

Spies
Espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

 and terrorists
Terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

 may be subject to civilian law or military tribunal for their acts and in practice have been subjected to torture
Torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

 and/or execution. The laws of war neither approve nor condemn such acts, which fall outside their scope. However, nations that have signed the UN Convention Against Torture have committed themselves not to use torture on anyone for any reason. Citizens and soldiers of nations which have not signed the Fourth Geneva Convention are also not protected by it (Article 4: "Nationals of a State which is not bound by the Convention are not protected by it".), whether they are spies or terrorists. Also, citizens and soldiers of nations which have not signed and do not abide by the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions are not protected by them. (Common Article 2: "[The High Contracting Parties] shall furthermore be bound by the Convention in relation to [a Power which is not a contracting party], if the latter accepts and applies the provisions thereof" (emphasis added).)

If someone is (or is suspected to be) a citizen or soldier of a nation which has signed or abides by the Fourth Geneva Convention (see Art. 2 and Art. 4 citations above), or is (or is suspected to be) a "prisoner of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

" (POW) per the definitions of such "protected persons" in the Third Geneva Convention (see Art. 4 and Art. 5), the following applies: A POW who breaks specific provisions of the laws of war may be penalized, but not penalized worse than the tribunal would penalize its own soldiers for the same offense (and usually a disciplinary, not judicial, punishment if its own soldiers normally wouldn't be brought to trial for a particular offense) and POW's may not be penalized based on rank or gender, nor with corporal punishment, collective punishment
Collective punishment
Collective punishment is the punishment of a group of people as a result of the behavior of one or more other individuals or groups. The punished group may often have no direct association with the other individuals or groups, or direct control over their actions...

s for individual acts, lack of daylight, or torture/cruelty (GC IV, Art. 82 through Art. 88).

After a conflict has ended, persons who have committed or ordered any breach of the laws of war, especially atrocities, may be held individually accountable for war crimes through process of law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

. Also, nations which signed the Geneva Conventions are required to search for, then try and punish, anyone who has committed or ordered certain "grave breaches" of the laws of war. (see GC III, Art. 129 and Art. 130)

History has shown that the laws of war are traditionally more strictly applied to those defeated, as the victorious faction are placed in the role of policing themselves. While it can be argued that the victors may be less strict on their own forces, it can also be argued that the signing of the treaties involved in the laws of war implies a good-faith promise to adhere to them equally. As with many facets of war, the aftermath and subsequent legal proceedings depend heavily on circumstance, and are different for each conflict.

There is an emerging trend in the US to hold private corporations civilly liable for aiding and abetting in war crimes, by knowingly providing substantial assistance in the commission of the crimes. Under international law, the mens rea
Mens rea
Mens rea is Latin for "guilty mind". In criminal law, it is viewed as one of the necessary elements of a crime. The standard common law test of criminal liability is usually expressed in the Latin phrase, actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, which means "the act does not make a person guilty...

 element is knowledge, not intent that the crimes be carried out. This opens the door not only to hold private security contractors liable, but also other kinds of corporations which employ violent mercenary or terrorist groups as private security forces. Although conflict zones often lack functioning legal systems, and government may even have passed laws immunizing private mercenaries from criminal liability, aiding and abetting a war crime can still be the basis for civil liability in a foreign court with jurisdiction over the defendant corporation.

International treaties on the laws of war

see also List of international declarations


List of declarations, conventions, treaties and judgements and on the laws of war:
  • 1856 Paris Declaration Respecting Maritime Law abolished privateering
  • 1864 First Geneva Convention
    First Geneva Convention
    The First Geneva Convention, for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field, is one of four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It defines "the basis on which rest the rules of international law for the protection of the victims of armed conflicts." It was first adopted...

     "for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field"
  • 1868 St. Petersburg Declaration Renouncing the Use, in Time of War, of Explosive projectiles Under 400 grams Weight
  • 1874 Project of an International Declaration concerning the Laws and Customs of War (Brussels Declaration). Signed in Brussels 27 August. This agreement never entered into force, but formed part of the basis for the codification of the laws of war at the 1899 Hague Peace Conference.
  • 1880 Manual of the Laws and Customs of War at Oxford
    Oxford
    The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

    . At its session in Geneva in 1874 the Institute of International Law appointed a committee to study the Brussels Declaration of the same year and to submit to the Institute its opinion and supplementary proposals on the subject. The work of the Institute led to the adoption of the Manual in 1880 and it went on to form part of the basis for the codification of the laws of war at the 1899 Hague Peace Conference.
  • 1899 Hague Conventions consisted of four main sections and three additional declarations (the final main section is for some reason identical to the first additional declaration):
    • I - Pacific Settlement of International Disputes
    • II - Laws and Customs of War on Land
    • III - Adaptation to Maritime Warfare of Principles of Geneva Convention of 1864
    • IV - Prohibiting Launching of Projectiles and Explosives from Balloons
    • Declaration I - On the Launching of Projectiles and Explosives from Balloons
    • Declaration II - On the Use of Projectiles the Object of Which is the Diffusion of Asphyxiating or Deleterious Gases
    • Declaration III - On the Use of Bullets Which Expand or Flatten Easily in the Human Body
  • 1907 Hague Conventions had thirteen sections, of which twelve were ratified and entered into force and two declarations
    • I - The Pacific Settlement of International Disputes
    • II - The Limitation of Employment of Force for Recovery of Contract Debts
    • III - The Opening of Hostilities
    • IV - The Laws and Customs of War on Land
    • V - The Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers and Persons in Case of War on Land
    • VI - The Status of Enemy Merchant Ships at the Outbreak of Hostilities
    • VII - The Conversion of Merchant Ships into War-Ships
    • VIII - The Laying of Automatic Submarine Contact Mines
    • IX - Bombardment by Naval Forces in Time of War
    • X - Adaptation to Maritime War of the Principles of the Geneva Convention
    • XI - Certain Restrictions with Regard to the Exercise of the Right of Capture in Naval War
    • XII - The Creation of an International Prize Court [Not Ratified]*
    • XIII - The Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers in Naval War
    • Declaration I - extending Declaration II from the 1899 Conference to other types of aircraft
    • Declaration II - on the obligatory arbitration
  • 1909 London Declaration concerning the Laws of Naval War largely reiterated existing law, although it showed greater regard to the rights of neutral entities. Never went into effect.
  • 1922 The Washington Naval Treaty
    Washington Naval Treaty
    The Washington Naval Treaty, also known as the Five-Power Treaty, was an attempt to cap and limit, and "prevent 'further' costly escalation" of the naval arms race that had begun after World War I between various International powers, each of which had significant naval fleets. The treaty was...

    , also known as the Five-Power Treaty (6 February)
  • 1923 Hague Draft Rules of Aerial Warfare
  • 1925 Geneva protocol
    Geneva Protocol
    The Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, usually called the Geneva Protocol, is a treaty prohibiting the first use of chemical and biological weapons. It was signed at Geneva on June 17, 1925 and entered...

     for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare
  • 1927-1930 Greco-German arbitration tribunal
  • 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact
    Kellogg-Briand Pact
    The Kellogg–Briand Pact was an agreement signed on August 27, 1928, by the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Weimar Germany and a number of other countries.The pact renounced war , prohibiting the use of war...

     (also known as the Pact of Paris)
  • 1929 Geneva Convention, Relative to the treatment of prisoners of war
  • 1929 Geneva Convention on the amelioration of the condition of the wounded and sick
  • 1930 Treaty for the Limitation and Reduction of Naval Armament (London Naval Treaty
    London Naval Treaty
    The London Naval Treaty was an agreement between the United Kingdom, the Empire of Japan, France, Italy and the United States, signed on April 22, 1930, which regulated submarine warfare and limited naval shipbuilding. Ratifications were exchanged in London on October 27, 1930, and the treaty went...

     22 April)
  • 1935 Roerich Pact
  • 1936 Second London Naval Treaty
    Second London Naval Treaty
    The Second London Naval Disarmament Conference opened in London, the United Kingdom, on 9 December 1935. It resulted in the Second London Naval Treaty which was signed on 25 March 1936.- Description :...

     (25 March)
  • 1938 Amsterdam Draft Convention for the Protection of Civilian Populations Against New Engines of War.
  • 1938 League of Nations
    League of Nations
    The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

     declaration for the "Protection of Civilian Populations Against Bombing From the Air in Case of War"
  • 1945 United Nations Charter
    United Nations Charter
    The Charter of the United Nations is the foundational treaty of the international organization called the United Nations. It was signed at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center in San Francisco, United States, on 26 June 1945, by 50 of the 51 original member countries...

     (entered into force on October 24, 1945)
  • 1946 Judgment of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg
  • 1947 Nuremberg Principles
    Nuremberg Principles
    The Nuremberg principles were a set of guidelines for determining what constitutes a war crime. The document was created by the International Law Commission of the United Nations to codify the legal principles underlying the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi party members following World War II.- Principle...

     formulated under UN General Assembly Resolution 177
    UN General Assembly Resolution 177
    UN General Assembly Resolution 177, 21 November 1947 - Formulation of the principles recognised in the London Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the judgement of the tribunal....

     21 November 1947
  • 1948 United Nations
    United Nations
    The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

     Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
    Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
    The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948 as General Assembly Resolution 260. The Convention entered into force on 12 January 1951. It defines genocide in legal terms, and is the culmination of...

    .
  • 1949 Geneva Convention I for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field
    First Geneva Convention
    The First Geneva Convention, for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field, is one of four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It defines "the basis on which rest the rules of international law for the protection of the victims of armed conflicts." It was first adopted...

  • 1949 Geneva Convention II for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea
    Second Geneva Convention
    The Second Geneva Convention, for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea, is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It was first adopted in 1906, after the Russo-Japanese war, but was significantly updated in 1929 and again in...

  • 1949 Geneva Convention III Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War
    Third Geneva Convention
    The Third Geneva Convention, relative to the treatment of prisoners of war, is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It was first adopted in 1929, but was significantly updated in 1949...

  • 1949 Geneva Convention IV Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War
    Fourth Geneva Convention
    The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, commonly referred to as the Fourth Geneva Convention and abbreviated as GCIV, is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It was adopted in August 1949, and defines humanitarian protections for civilians...

  • 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict
    Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict
    The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict is an international treaty that requires its signatories to protect cultural property in war. It was signed at The Hague, Netherlands, on May 14, 1954, and entered into force August 7, 1956...

  • 1971 Zagreb Resolution of the Institute of International Law on Conditions of Application of Humanitarian Rules of Armed Conflict to Hostilities in which the United Nations Forces May be Engaged
  • 1977 United Nations Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques
  • 1977 Geneva Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts
  • 1977 Geneva Protocol II Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts
  • 1978 Red Cross Fundamental Rules of International Humanitarian Law Applicable in Armed Conflicts
  • 1980 United Nations Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects
    Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons
    The United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons , concluded at Geneva on October 10, 1980 and entered into force in December 1983, seeks to prohibit or restrict the use of certain conventional weapons which are considered excessively injurious or whose effects are indiscriminate.The...

     (CCW)
    • 1980 Protocol I on Non-Detectable Fragments
    • 1980 Protocol II on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices
    • 1980 Protocol III on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons
    • 1995 Protocol IV on Blinding Laser Weapons
    • 1996 Amended Protocol II on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices
    • Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War (Protocol V to the 1980 Convention), 28 November 2003, entered into force on 12 November 2006
  • 1994 San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea.
  • 1994 ICRC/UNGA Guidelines for Military Manuals and Instructions on the Protection of the Environment in Time of Armed Conflict
  • 1994 UN Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel
  • 1996 The International Court of Justice
    International Court of Justice
    The International Court of Justice is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations. It is based in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands...

     advisory opinion
    Advisory opinion
    An advisory opinion is an opinion issued by a court that does not have the effect of adjudicating a specific legal case, but merely advises on the constitutionality or interpretation of a law. Some countries have procedures by which the executive or legislative branches may certify important...

     on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons
  • 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Ottawa Treaty)
  • 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
    International Criminal Court
    The International Criminal Court is a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression .It came into being on 1 July 2002—the date its founding treaty, the Rome Statute of the...

     entered into force on 1 July 2002.
  • 2000 Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict
    Optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict
    The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Annex I of a resolution on 25 May 2000.The protocol came into force on 12 February 2002....

    , entered into force on 12 February 2002.
  • 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions
    Convention on Cluster Munitions
    The Convention on Cluster Munitions is an international treaty that prohibits the use, transfer and stockpile of cluster bombs, a type of explosive weapon which scatters submunitions over an area. The convention was adopted on 2008 in Dublin, and was opened for signature on 2008 in Oslo...

    , entered into force on 1 August 2010.

See also


  • International Humanitarian Law
    International humanitarian law
    International humanitarian law , often referred to as the laws of war, the laws and customs of war or the law of armed conflict, is the legal corpus that comprises "the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions, as well as subsequent treaties, case law, and customary international law." It...

  • Customary international humanitarian law
    Customary International Humanitarian Law
    Customary international humanitarian law is a body of unwritten rules of public international law, which govern conduct during armed conflict.-Customary international law:...

  • List of Articles of War
  • Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts Project (RULAC)
    Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts Project (RULAC)
    The Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts Project is an initiative of the to support the application and implementation of the international law of armed conflict.-Overview:...

  • Command responsibility
    Command responsibility
    Command responsibility, sometimes referred to as the Yamashita standard or the Medina standard, and also known as superior responsibility, is the doctrine of hierarchical accountability in cases of war crimes....

  • Debellatio
    Debellatio
    Debellatio designates the end of a war caused by complete destruction of a hostile state....

  • International law
    International law
    Public international law concerns the structure and conduct of sovereign states; analogous entities, such as the Holy See; and intergovernmental organizations. To a lesser degree, international law also may affect multinational corporations and individuals, an impact increasingly evolving beyond...

  • Islamic military jurisprudence
  • Lawfare
    Lawfare
    Lawfare is a recently coined word not yet appearing in the Oxford English Dictionary, a portmanteau of the words 'law' and 'warfare', said to describe a form of asymmetric warfare...

  • Law of occupation
  • Law of the Sea
    Law of the sea
    Law of the sea may refer to:* United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea* Admiralty law* The Custom of the Sea...

  • Roerich pact
  • Nuremberg Principles
    Nuremberg Principles
    The Nuremberg principles were a set of guidelines for determining what constitutes a war crime. The document was created by the International Law Commission of the United Nations to codify the legal principles underlying the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi party members following World War II.- Principle...

  • Right of conquest
    Right of conquest
    The right of conquest is the right of a conqueror to territory taken by force of arms. It was traditionally a principle of international law which has in modern times gradually given way until its proscription after the Second World War when the crime of war of aggression was first codified in the...

  • Total war
    Total war
    Total war is a war in which a belligerent engages in the complete mobilization of fully available resources and population.In the mid-19th century, "total war" was identified by scholars as a separate class of warfare...

  • Journal of International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict
    Journal of International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict
    The Journal of International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict is an international law journal published quarterly by the Secretary General of the German Red Cross, Berlin, and the Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict...

  • Targeted killing
    Targeted killing
    Targeted killing is the deliberate, specific targeting and killing, by a government or its agents, of a supposed terrorist or of a supposed "unlawful combatant" who is not in that government's custody...


External links


Further reading


Footnotes