You are on page 1of 18


Values and Ethics Track

Key Points

1 The Principles of the Law of War

2 Limitations on the Use of Force

3 Reporting Violations of the Law of War

4 Preventing Violations and War Crimes

5 Rules of Engagement
Law of War and Rules of Engagement (ROE) 61

America can take pride in the just manner in which her armed forces operate during
Geneva Conventions
military conflict. Our nations enemies understand that our battlefield conduct and our
treatment of prisoners are humane and tempered. In order to maintain that reputation, a series of agreements
however, future US military leaders must continue to act with integrity and personal first formulated at an
1864 international
courage when conducting combat operations. convention in Geneva,
This chapter summarizes and explains the rules set forth by the Geneva and Switzerland, that
Hague Conventions. All references to the Convention refer to any and all treaties established rules for the
humane treatment of
that derive or result from the Geneva and/or Hague Conventions. The term power prisoners of war, the
refers to a nation, state, or other command authority. sick, and the wounded;
armed forces at sea; and
Adherence to the Rules of Engagement (ROE) helps US forces accomplish their
protecting civiliansthe
missions and avoid violating the Law of War. You have a crucial role to play in this most recent agreement
regard. As a small-unit leader, you are the key to preventing violations of ROE and Law was signed in 1949
of War at the tactical level of conflict.

Hague Conventions

a series of agreements
Abuses at Abu Ghraib negotiated beginning in
Between October and December 2003, at the Abu Ghraib Confinement Facility 1899 that augment the
Geneva Conventions
[Baghdad Central Confinement Facility] (BCCF), numerous incidents of sadistic, and ban certain types of
weaponsthe Geneva
blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees. This Protocol, an addendum,
systemic and illegal abuse of detainees was intentionally perpetrated by several bans chemical and
biological weapons
members of the military police guard force (372nd Military Police Company,
320th Military Police Battalion, 800th MP Brigade), in Tier (section) 1-A of the
Abu Ghraib Prison (BCCF). The allegations of abuse were substantiated by
detailed witness statements (ANNEX 26) and the discovery of extremely graphic
photographic evidence. . . . In addition to the aforementioned crimes, there were
also abuses committed by members of the 325th MI Battalion, 205th MI Brigade,
and Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center (JIDC).
Excerpt from hearing of Article 15-6 investigation of the 800th Military Police Brigade


The laws of war (jus in bello) define the conduct and responsibilities of belligerent nations,
neutral nations, and individuals engaged in warfare, in relation to each other and to protected persons,
usually meaning civilians.

1. Sources of the laws of war
2. Purposes of the laws
3. Conduct of warfare
4. Declaration of war
5. Violations and applicability
6. Prohibitory effects
7. Remedies for violations
8. See also
9. References
10. External links

Sources of the Laws of War

The laws of war are mandatory for nations bound by the appropriate treaties, primarily the United
Nations Charter, the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions. There are also other customary
unwritten rules of war, many of which were explored at the Nuremberg War Trials. By extension, they
also define both the permissive rights of these powers as well as prohibitions on their conduct when
dealing with irregular forces and non-signatories.
The agreements regarding acceptable practices while engaged in war are referred to as the jus in
bello. Thus the Geneva Conventions are a set of jus in bello. Any international agreements or other
international norms concerning the justifiable reasons for a country to declare war against another
can be referred to as jus ad bellum.

Purposes of the Laws

It has often been commented that creating laws for something as inherently lawless as war seems like
a lesson in absurdity. But based on the adherence to what amounted to customary international law by
warring parties through the ages, it was felt that codifying laws of war would be beneficial.
Some of the central principles underlying laws of war are:
That wars should be limited to achieving the political goals that started the war
(e.g., territorial control) and should not include unnecessary destruction
That wars should be brought to an end as quickly as possible
That people and property that do not contribute to the war effort be protected
against unnecessary destruction and hardship.

Figure 1.1A Laws of War

Law of War and Rules of Engagement (ROE) 63

To this end, laws of war are intended to mitigate the evils of war by:
Protecting both combatants and noncombatants from unnecessary suffering
Safeguarding certain fundamental human rights 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.

Conduct of Warfare
Among other issues, the laws of war address declaration of war, acceptance of surrender, and the treatment
of prisoners of war; the avoidance of atrocities; the prohibition on deliberately attacking civilians; and
the prohibition of certain inhumane weapons. It is a violation of the laws of war to engage in combat
without meeting certain requirements, among them the wearing of a distinctive uniform or other easily
identifiable badge and the carrying of weapons openly. Impersonating Soldiers of the other side by
wearing the enemys uniform and fighting in that uniform, is forbidden, as is the taking of hostages.

Declaration of War
Some treaties, notably the UN charter (1945) Article 2, and some other articles in the charter, seek to
curtail the right of member states to declare war; as does the older and toothless Kellogg-Briand Pact
of 1928 for those nations who ratified it. The Kellogg-Briand Pact was used against Germany for waging
an aggressive war at the Nuremberg War Trials.

Violations and Applicability

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 who use protected people or property as shields or camouflage are
guilty of violations of laws of war and are responsible for damage to those who should be protected.

Prohibitory Effects
Well-known examples of such laws include the prohibition on attacking doctors or ambulances
displaying a Red Cross, a Red Crescent, or other emblem related to the International Federation of the
Red Cross. It is also prohibited to fire at a person or vehicle bearing a white flag, since that indicates an
intent to surrender or a desire to communicate. In either case, the persons protected by the Red Cross
or white flag are expected to maintain neutrality, and may not engage in warlike acts; in fact, engaging
in war activities under a white flag or red cross is itself a violation of the laws of war.

Remedies for Violations

During conflict, punishment for violating the laws of war may consist of a specific, deliberate, and limited
violation of the laws of war in reprisal.
Soldiers 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 Art 5). At that point they become

Figure 1.1B Laws of War (continued)


an unlawful combatant 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 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 gained independence from Portugal in 1975. After a regularly constituted court found
them guilty of being mercenaries, 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 and terrorists are only protected by the laws of war if the power that holds them is in a state
of armed conflict or war and until they are found to be an unlawful combatant. Depending on the
circumstances, they may be subject to civilian law or military tribunal for their acts and in practice have
been subjected to torture and/or execution. The laws of war neither approve nor condemn such acts,
which fall outside their scope. Countries that have signed the UN Convention Against Torture have
committed themselves not to use torture on anyone for any reason.
After a conflict has ended, persons who have committed any breach of the laws of war , and especially
atrocities, may be held individually accountable for war crimes through process of law.

See Also
Just war
Total war
Law of land warfare
International law
International Humanitarian Law.

Documents on the Laws of War (/
InternationalLaw/?view=usa&sf=toc&ci=0198763905/), (Third Edition) Ed. by Adam Roberts and
Richard Guelff, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0198763905

External Links
UN Charter (/
A Brief History of the Laws of War (/
Crimes, Trials and Laws (/
Trial of Otto Skorzeny and Others, General Military Government Court of the U.S. Zone of Germany,
18th August to 9th September, 1947 (/
1976: Death Sentence for Mercenaries (/
june/28/newsid_2520000/2520575.stm/) (source BBC)

Retrieved from

Categories : International law | Laws of war

This page was last modified 20:08, 28 Mar 2005.

All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Figure 1.1C Laws of War (continued)

Law of War and Rules of Engagement (ROE) 65

The Principles of the Law of War

The Law of War governs nations bound by the United Nations Charter, the Geneva
Law of War
Conventions (GC), and the Hague Conventions.
The agreements regarding what is acceptable during a war are referred to by the Latin that part of international
term jus in bello. Thus, the Geneva Conventions are a set of jus in bello. Any international law that regulates the
conduct of armed
agreements concerning the justifiable reasons for a country to declare war against another hostilitiesit is often
are called the jus ad bellum. called the law of armed
The laws of war were inspired by the desire to diminish wars evils by: conflict

Protecting both combatants and noncombatants from unnecessary suffering

Safeguarding certain fundamental human rights of people who fall into enemy jus in bello
hands, particularly prisoners of war, the wounded and sick, and civilians
the conduct of
Facilitating the restoration of peace. belligerents during a war

jus ad bellum
Among other issues, the Law of War addresses declaration of war; acceptance of surrender;
the treatment of prisoners of war; the avoidance of atrocities; the prohibition on deliberately the condition under
which one may resort
attacking civilians; and the prohibition of certain inhumane weapons. It is a violation of to war or use of force
the Law of War to engage in combat without meeting certain requirementssuch as wearing
a distinctive uniform or other easily identifiable badge and openly carrying weapons.
Impersonating Soldiers of the other side by wearing the enemys uniform and fighting in
that uniform is forbidden, as is the taking of hostages.
The Armed Forces of the United States follow the Law of War because it:

Accords with Army Values and is the right thing to do

Encourages our potential enemies to also follow the law
Maintains and increases public support at home
Helps lower enemy resistancefor example, enemies who know they will be treated
humanely are more likely to surrender
Helps accomplish the mission
Helps restore the peace
Is the law in the United States.
Soldiers who violate the Law of War lose the protections and status afforded as prisoners
of war but only after they face a competent tribunal (GC III Art 5). At that point they
become unlawful combatants. 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 Art 5.
Spies and terrorists are protected by the laws of war only if the power that holds them
is in a state of armed conflict or war and only until they are found to be unlawful
combatants. Depending on the circumstances, they may be subject to civilian law or military
tribunal for their acts. In practice, some countries have tortured and executed them.
Countries that have signed the UN Convention Against Torture, however, have committed
themselves not to torture anyone for any reason.
After a conflict has ended, persons who have violated the Law of War may be held
individually accountable for war crimes through the process of lawespecially if they have
committed atrocities.

Limitations on the Use of Force

War-fighting forces do not have an unlimited right to adopt any means to injure the enemy.
The Law of War restricts the means that nations at war may employ.
It is especially forbidden The Law of War especially forbids:
to employ arms,
projectiles, or material Employing arms, projectiles, or material to purposely cause unnecessary injury or
to purposely cause suffering
unnecessary injury
or suffering. Employing poison or poisoned weapons
Using chemical weapons unless the enemy has used them first
Using bacteriological weapons, including toxins.
In the case of chemical weapons, the United States considers that the Geneva Protocol of
While the United States 1925 applies to both lethal and incapacitating chemical agents. Incapacitating agents are
reserves the right to those that produce symptoms that persist for hours or even days. The United States holds
retaliate in kind against
chemical attacks, it that the Geneva Protocol of 1925 does not prohibit the use in war of either chemical
accepts international herbicides or riot control agents. Riot control agents are those agents of a type widely
prohibitions on the used by governments for law enforcement purposes because they produce, in most cases,
use of bacteriological
weapons under any merely temporary effects that disappear within minutes. But the United States has
circumstances. unilaterally renounced certain uses of chemical herbicides and riot control agents in war.
The Geneva Protocol of 1925 does not prohibit the use in war of smoke and incendiary

Bombardments, Assaults, and Sieges

Bombardment of Undefended Places Forbidden
Attacking or bombarding undefended towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings is prohibited.
An undefended place is any inhabited place near or in a zone where opposing armed forces
The practice of are in contact that an adverse party can occupy without resistance. In order for a place to
destroying homes known be considered undefended, the following conditions should be fulfilled:
to support bomb-making
or other terrorist activities 1. All combatants and weapons must be evacuated or neutralized
was an acceptable and
justifiable use of force 2. No one may use fixed military installations with hostile intent
for US forces during 3. The population and the authorities may commit no acts of warfare
Operation Iraqi Freedom.
4. No one may support hostile military operations.
A place may be undefended even if medical units, the wounded and sick, and police forces
are present.
Permissible Objects of Attack of Bombardment
Customary international law prohibits the launching of attacks (including bombardment)
against either the civilian population or individual civilians.

Defended Places. It is permissible to attack or bombard defended places. Defended

places include:

A fort or fortified place

A place that a combatant military force occupies or is passing throughif a place
is occupied by medical units alone, however, it is not a permissible object of attack
A city or town surrounded by detached defensive positions, if under the
circumstances the city or town cannot be separated from the defensive positions
as a whole.
Law of War and Rules of Engagement (ROE) 67

Military Objectives. It is permissible to attack or bombard military objectives. Military

objectives include combatants and objects that contribute to military actionif their
destruction or capture offers a definite military advantage at the time. In other words,
military objectives could include factories producing munitions and military supplies;
military camps; warehouses storing munitions and military supplies; ports and railroads
used for transporting military supplies; and other places that house troops or support
military operations. It is not permissible, however, to attack cities, towns, villages, dwellings,
or buildings that may be classified as military objectives if they are undefended.
Unnecessary Killing and Devastation
Particularly in the circumstances referred to in the preceding paragraph, loss of life and
damage to property incidental to attacks must not be excessive in relation to the concrete
and direct advantage expected to be gained. Attackers must ensure that their objectives Attackers must ensure
are military objectives or defended places. They must also determine that they can attack that their objectives are
identified as military
these objectives without probable losses in lives and damage to property that are objectives or defended
disproportionate to the military advantage they expect to gain. Moreover, once a fort or places. They must also
defended locality has surrendered, the only further damage permitted is that demanded determine that they can
attack these objectives
by the requirements of warsuch as removing fortifications, demolishing military without probable losses
buildings, and destroying military stores. in lives and damage
to property that are
Aerial Bombardment disproportionate to
Aerial bombardment of combatant troops, defended places, or other legitimate military the military advantage
objectives is permissible. Before beginning a bombardment, however, the officer commanding they expect to gain.
an attacking force must do everything possible to warn the authoritiesexcept in cases of
assault. This rule refers only to bombardments of places where parts of the civil population
remain. The commanders of US ground forces will, when the situation permits, inform the
enemy of their intention to bombard a place. This is to allow noncombatants, especially
women and children, to evacuate before the bombardment begins.
Buildings and Areas to Be Protected
Buildings to Be Spared. In sieges and bombardments, US forces must take all necessary
measures to spare, as far as possible, buildings dedicated to religion, art, science, or charitable US forces must take all
purposes, historic monuments, hospitals, and places where the sick and wounded are necessary measures to
spare, as far as possible,
collectedprovided the enemy is not using these buildings at the time for military purposes. buildings dedicated to
The besieged have a duty to indicate the presence of such buildings or places by distinctive religion, art, science,
and visible signs, which they shall communicate to the enemy beforehand. or charitable purposes,
historic monuments,
Areas to Be Protected. To protect buildings used for medical purposes from being hospitals, and places
where the sick and
accidentally hit, belligerents should, if possible, concentrate the wounded and sick in an area wounded are collected
remote from military objectives or in an area declared neutral by arrangement with the enemy. provided the enemy
is not using these
buildings at the time
for military purposes.
Protection of Property
The strict necessities of war determine how much devastation is permissible. The law of
war does not permit devastation as an end in itself or as a separate measure of war. Some
reasonably close connection must exist between the destruction of property and overcoming
the enemys forces. Thus the rule requiring respect for private property is not violated
through damage resulting from operations, movements, or combat activity of an army
that is, real estate may be used for marches, campsites, construction of field fortifications,
etc. Combatants may destroy buildings for sanitary purposes or use them to shelter troops,
the wounded, and sick; to store vehicles; and for reconnaissance, cover, and defense. Fences,
woods, crops, buildings, etc., may be demolished, cut down, and removed to clear a field
of fire, to clear the ground for landing fields, or to furnish building materials or fuel if an
army imperatively needs them.

Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments

The United States and other countries in the Americas are parties to the Roetich Pact. This
pact accords neutral and protected status to historic monuments, museums, and scientific,
artistic, educational, and cultural institutions in the event of war between those states.

Destruction and Seizure of Property

It is forbidden to destroy or seize enemy property, except when the necessities of war
demand it.
After the initial units
returned home from Iraq Booty of War
in the summer of 2003,
CJTF-7 issued strict policy
Public Property. All the enemys public movable property captured or found on a battlefield
guidance on what items becomes the property of the capturing state.
could be considered war
souvenirs. Each item Private Property. The enemys private movable propertyother than arms, military
required documentation, papers, horses, and the like captured or found on a battlefieldmay be appropriated
and every service
member was subject to only if such taking is permissible in occupied areas.
search by customs agents
prior to his or her return Prisoners of War. Article 18 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners
to the United States. of War of 27 July 1929 (GPW) specifies the property that prisoners of war may retain.

Prisoners of War
In war, the enemy population is divided into two general classes:
1. Persons entitled to treatment as prisoners of war upon capture, as defined in
prisoner of war
Article 4, GPW
one who, while engaged 2. The civilian population (excluding civilians listed in GPW, Art. 4), who benefit to
in combat under orders
of his or her
varying degrees from the provisions of the Geneva Convention.
government, is captured Persons in both these categories have distinct rights, duties, and responsibilities. Persons
by the armed forces of who are not members of the armed forces, as defined in GPW, Art. 4, but who bear arms
the enemy
or engage in other conduct hostile to the enemy deprive themselves of many of the privileges
granted to the civilian population.

General Protection of Prisoners of War

A person is considered to have fallen into the power of the enemy when he or she has been
captured by, or surrendered to, members of the military forces, the civilian police, or local
civilian defense organizationsor to enemy civilians who have taken him or her into custody.
Such persons receive the same protections afforded prisoners during wartime, from the time
they fall into the power of the enemy until their final release and repatriation.
Killing of Prisoners
A commander may not kill prisoners because their presence retards his movements or
diminishes his power of resistance by necessitating a large guard, or because they consume
Memorize the 5 Ss

technique for handling
prisoners: Search,
Silence, Segregate,
Safeguard, and Speed
to the Rear. Critical Thinking
Examine the possible motivations for violating the Law of War in taking property.
Why is this especially forbidden? How would you prevent or report a violation
of the Law of War during a mission?
Law of War and Rules of Engagement (ROE) 69

supplies, or because it appears certain that they will be set free through the impending success
of their forces. A commander may not kill prisoners on grounds of self-preservation, even in
the case of airborne or commando operations. The circumstances of the operation, however,
may make it necessary to rigorously supervise prisoners of war and restrain their movements.

Renunciation of Rights Prohibited

Prisoners of war may not renounce any or all of their rights under the Law of War. Prisoners
of war may not renounce their status as prisoners of war, even if they do so voluntarily.
The prohibition extends to prisoners who renounce their status to become civilians or to
join the armed forces of the detaining power.

Responsibility for the Treatment of Prisoners

Prisoners of war are in the hands of the enemy power, not of the individuals or military
units that have captured them. Regardless of whatever individual responsibilities exist,
the detaining power is responsible for the treatment prisoners receive. During the first Gulf
Detaining powers may transfer prisoners of war only to a power that is a party to War, large groups of
the Convention. Iraqi soldiers surrendered
en masse. Do you think
those Iraqi soldiers
Humane Treatment of Prisoners would have been as
Prisoners of war must be treated humanely at all times. Any unlawful act or omission by eager to surrender if
they thought US forces
the detaining power that causes a prisoner of war to die or seriously endangers a prisoners would mistreat them?
health is a serious breach of the convention. In particular, the detaining power may not
physically mutilate prisoners of war or conduct any medical or scientific experiments on
them, except those justified by a prisoners medical or dental treatment.
The detaining power must protect prisoners of war against violence and intimidation,
and against insults and public curiosity. Measures of reprisal against prisoners of war are

Respect for the Person of Prisoners

Prisoners of war are always entitled to respect for their persons and their honor. Women
shall be treated with all the regard due to their sex and their treatment must always be as
favorable as that of men. Consider the use
of sheets, tarps, or
Maintenance of Prisoners other material to
screen prisoners from
The detaining power must provide all maintenance and needed medical attention to unnecessary contact
prisoners of war free of charge. with Soldiers. Of course,
guards must still be
able to observe the
Equality of Treatment prisoners.
The detaining power must treat all prisoners of war equally, with no discrimination based
on race, nationality, religious beliefs, or political opinions. The only exceptions are those
allowed by the Convention for rank and gender, or privileges granted because of a prisoners
age, health, or professional qualifications.

Symbols, Emblems, and Insignias

Emblem of the Convention
Many countries use the familiar Red Cross symbol to designate their armed forces medical
services in accordance with the Convention. Many Muslim countries instead use the Red
Crescent symbol. Iran uses the Red Lion and Sun, while Israel uses the Red Shield of David.
The Convention requires medical services to display the emblem on all flags, armlets, and
equipment they use.

Medical Personnel and Chaplains

The Convention requires combatants to respect and protect medical personnel engaged in
caring for the wounded or sick, including administrative personnel in medical units. Military
chaplains receive similar protection. If the detaining power holds medical personnel and
chaplains to assist prisoners of war, the medical personnel and chaplains are not prisoners
of war and must receive the facilities they need to do their work. They receive the
Conventions protection, but operate in accordance with the military laws of the detaining
power. Medical personnel and chaplains must be allowed to visit prisoners of war outside
the camp. While they are subject to the internal discipline of the camp in which they are
held, the detaining power may not compel medical personnel or chaplains to do any work
other than their medical or religious duties.

Reporting Violations of the Law of War

Reportable Incident
A reportable incident is a possible, suspected, or alleged violation of the Law of War. If you
witness reportable incidents by or against the US Armed Forces or persons serving with
them, you should promptly report it. The US military will thoroughly investigate and
take corrective action when necessary.
You should report the event you believe to be a war crime as soon as possibleeither
in writing or orallyto your commander, chaplain, the inspector general, the judge
advocate, or the next immediate commander, depending on who may be involved. As an
Army leader, you have the added duty of ensuring your subordinates understand the
reporting procedure, as well. Be familiar with the specific regulations your Command
Headquarters issues. The Army sends reports of reportable incidents through command
channels for forwarding to appropriate US agencies, allied governments, or other authorities.
In such an event, the Army will conduct a preliminary inquiry to confirm that no US
personnel are involved.

Information Requirements
The commander of any unit who obtains information about a reportable incident must
immediately report the incident through command channels to higher authority. Make
the report by the fastest means available.

Preventing Violations and War Crimes
You should take the following measures to protect noncombatants, civilians, and civilian
an individual in an area
of combat operations property from the consequences of combat:
who is not armed and is
not participating in any
activity in support of any Protect Noncombatants, Civilians, and Civilian Property
of the factions or forces
involved in combat Make minimizing collateral damage a key factor in deciding what to target
Do not treat several military targets located in a civilian area as one large target
Prevent attacks on unlawful targets
Know and respect symbols for protected persons and property
Do not attack noncombatants or protected property
Do not fire indiscriminately; take well-aimed shots
Use observed fires
Follow the Rules of Engagement
Law of War and Rules of Engagement (ROE) 71

Use illumination rounds for harassment and interdiction (H&I) fires instead of
high explosive rounds
Conduct a risk assessment and consider the military value to the enemy before
targeting any building.

Prevent Unnecessary Destruction and Seizure of Property

Ensure that Soldiers understand that civilian property may not be seized or
destroyed without military necessity
Ensure that an officer provides receipts for any seized property
Ensure the local commander authorizes any requisitions of property
Ensure that Soldiers understand the specific regulations issued by the Theater or
higher-level command
Explain the consequences under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)
for violations of these regulations.

Prevent Unnecessary Suffering and Harm

Do all you can to minimize injury to civilians
DO NOT use weapons indiscriminately
Use observed fires
DO NOT use unlawful weapons
DO NOT modify weapon systems or ammunition
Use the appropriate weapon for the given situation.

Critical Thinking
Whom does the Law of War protect? Evaluate whether the Law of War
is equal parts legal and moral in application.

Rules of Engagement

The deadly shooting of an Italian intelligence officer by US troops at a checkpoint

near Baghdad in March 2005 was one of many incidents in which civilians have
been killed by mistake at checkpoints in Iraq, including local police officers, women
and children, according to military records, US officials and human rights groups.
The circumstances of the shooting of Italian military intelligence officer Nicola
Calipari made it particularly vulnerable to calamity, a military source said as he
divulged new details of how the car in which Calipari and a newly freed hostage,
Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, came to be attacked.
The automobile was traversing onto a routethe road to the airportwhere
Soldiers have been killed in shootings and by roadside bombs. US Soldiers had
established an impromptu evening checkpoint at the entrance to the road about

90 minutes earlier and had stopped other vehicles. They knew a high-level
embassy official would be moving to the airport on that road, and their aim was
to support this movement.
But no specific coordination occurred between those involved in Sgrenas
rescue and the military unit responsible for the checkpoint, according to the
source, who said he cannot be named because the militarys investigation into the
incident is continuing.
Soldiers at the checkpoint have told US military officers that they flashed
lights, used hand signals and fired warning shots in an effort to stop the car,
which they believed was traveling at more than 50 mph, a typical speed for that
road. But Sgrena, who had just been released by Iraqi captors, recalled later that
the car was not traveling very fast and that Soldiers started firing right after
lighting a spotlighta decision she said was not justified. Sgrena was wounded
by shrapnel in the US barrage.
The absence of advance communication between the Italians and the US
Soldiers at the checkpoint appears to have put the occupants of the car in grave
jeopardy, given what many US officials describe as the militarys standard practice
of firing at onrushing cars from their checkpoints in Iraq.
In my view, the main contributing factor was a lack of prior coordination with
the ground unit, the source said. If requested, we would have resourced and
supported this mission very differently.
Military officials in Iraq have said for two days that they cannot answer
questions about US rules of engagement because of a need to keep insurgents off
guard. Officials have not said whether these rules have changed since the
insurgency in Iraq worsened in late 2003. They also have declined to estimate
how many civilians such as Calipari have been killed accidentally by US forcesat
checkpoints or elsewhere in Iraq.
Washington Post

ROE and the Law of War

Rules of Engagement
As you have read, the Law of War is based on international treaties outlining the rules for
directives issued by
competent superior
conducting armed conflict. Those rules are absolutes. Rules of Engagement, on the other
authority that define hand, are established by US military and civilian leaders and can change over time as the
the circumstances and situation dictates. Commanders take into account a number of different factors when
limitations under which
US forces will initiate
developing ROEfirst and foremost the Law of War. ROE are always at least as restrictive
and/or continue as the provisions in the Law of War. Often ROE are more restrictive.
engagement with
other forces Rules of Engagement Defined
In developing ROE, commanders must take into account a variety of factors such as:

International Law and Concerns: What international law applies to the situation?
What international political or economic factors must be taken into account? What
about countries bordering on the area of conflict?
Law of War and Rules of Engagement (ROE) 73

Figure 1.2 Considerations Influencing the Design of ROE

US National Security Policy and Politics: What does US national security require?
What domestic political considerations must policymakers factor in?
Domestic Law or Concerns: Which US laws apply? What other implications exist
for American society?
Operational Concerns: Which operational challenges confront commanders? These
might include the nature of the enemy; the presence of neutrals; the need to
safeguard significant buildings, cities, or individuals; the local culture; local ethnic
or religious conflicts; weather; terrain; or the makeup and conduct of allied forces.

ROE always recognize the right of self-defense, the commanders obligation to protect
personnel, and the national right to defend US forces, allies, and coalition members against
attack. The Joint Chiefs of Staff standing rules of engagement (SROE) provide baseline As a leader, you will
guidance (see CJCSI 3121.01A). Commanders then tailor and supplement the SROE to be responsible for
applying the ROE
meet their needs for specific operations. Effective ROE are enforceable, understandable, and determining the
tactically sound, and legally sufficient. Further, effective ROE support the mission and appropriate level of force
permit subordinate commanders to exercise initiative when they confront an opportunity for a given situation.
or unforeseen circumstances.

Critical Thinking
Explain the difference between the Law of War and Rules of Engagement.

In all operations, ROE may impose political, practical, operational, and legal limitations
upon commandersregardless of whether they employ lethal or nonlethal force.
In all situations, Soldiers Commanders factor these constraints into planning and preparation as early as possible.
and commanders use Decisions not to use particular classes of weapons or to exempt the territory of certain
the degree of force that
is militarily necessary,
nations from attack are examples of such limitations. Tactically, ROE may extend to rules
proportional to the for initiating engagements with certain weapons systems (for example, unobserved fires)
threat, and prudent or reacting to an attack. ROE never justify illegal actions. In all situations, Soldiers and
for future operations. commanders use the degree of force that is militarily necessary, proportional to the threat,
and prudent for future operations.
Two important principles lie behind ROE. Soldiers responses to a threat must be both:
1. Necessary. Necessity exists when a hostile act occurs or when a force or terrorist(s)
Sticks and Stones.
The proportional
exhibits hostile intent. The actions of the Soldier in response to a real or perceived
response for a child threat must be necessary to prevent the loss of life, limb, or eyesight to himself or
throwing rocks at his fellow Soldier or to prevent damage or destruction of US property.
US forces might be to
halt and question the 2. Proportional. Force used to counter a hostile act or demonstrated hostile intent
youth. It would not be must be reasonable in intensity, duration, and magnitude to the perceived or
acceptable to retaliate demonstrated threat based on all facts the commander knows at the time. Soldiers
with lethal force.
must use no more than the required amount of force to counter a real or perceived
threat. The threat response must be relative to the threat itself.

NOTE: The ROE can change several times during a single deployment. You must
always thoroughly brief your Soldiers on any changes to ROE. Well-trained and
disciplined Soldiers will be able to adapt to changing conditions.

ROE do not assign specific tasks or require specific tactical solutions. They allow
commanders to quickly and clearly convey to subordinates a desired posture regarding the
use of force. In passing orders to subordinates, commanders act within the ROE received.
ROE never relieve commanders, however, from the responsibility to formulate an
operational design. The end state, objectives, and mission must be clear. Commanders at
all levels continually review the ROE to ensure their effectiveness in light of current and
projected conditions. Soldiers who thoroughly understand ROE are better prepared to
apply the proper balance of initiative and restraint.
Hostile Force
Exercising the right of national self-defense and declaring a force hostile is a heavy
hostile force
responsibility. Policy-makers much weigh all available intelligence, the status of international
any civilian, paramilitary, relationships, the requirements of international law, an appreciation of the political
or military force or situation, and the potential consequences for the United States. The exercise of the right
terrorist(s), with or and obligation of national self-defense by competent authority is separate from and in
without national
designation, that has no way limits a commanders right and obligation to exercise unit self-defense. Once a
committed a hostile act, force is declared hostile by appropriate authority, US units need not observe a hostile act
exhibited hostile intent, or a demonstration of hostile intent before engaging that force.
or has been declared
hostile by appropriate
US authority

Critical Thinking
Evaluate how Army Values might influence ROE. Why might ROE change,
depending on the situation?
Law of War and Rules of Engagement (ROE) 75

Standing Rules of Engagement (SROE)

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 3121.01A establishes standing rules of
engagement (SROE) approved by the Secretary of Defense. These affirm the inherent right
of self-defense and provide guidance for employing force to accomplish a mission. SROE Once a force is declared
policies and procedures govern the actions of US force commanders during all military hostile by appropriate
authority, US units need
operations and contingencies. SROE are not the final word, however. In addition, not observe a hostile act
commanders write specific ROE to meet mission and operational needs. or a demonstration of
hostile intent before
Mission Accomplishment engaging that force.
When authorized by the president and secretary of Defense, US forces operating as part
of a multinational force (i.e., assigned to the operational control (OPCON) or tactical
control (TACON) of a multinational force) follow the multinational forces ROE to
accomplish the mission. US forces always retain the right to use force for unit and individual
No matter what the
self-defense in response to a hostile act or demonstrated hostile intent. situation, all Soldiers
When US forces under US OPCON or TACON operate alongside a multinational force, maintain an inherent
reasonable efforts will be made to effect common ROE. If it is not possible to establish such right of self-defense.
ROE, US forces will operate under SROE as prescribed by CJCSI 3121.01A. To avoid
misunderstanding, the US will inform multinational forces before US participation in
the operation that US forces intend to operate under SROE and will exercise unit and
individual self-defense in response to a hostile act or demonstrated hostile intent.
Authorization for Self-Defense
US forces may exercise self-defense in cases of hostile acts and hostile intent. Self-defense
hostile act
includes the authority to pursue and engage hostile forces that continue to commit hostile
acts or exhibit hostile intent. an attack or other use of
force against the United
Action in Self-Defense States, US forces, and, in
Units may use all necessary means and take all appropriate actions in self-defense. The certain circumstances,
following guidelines apply to individual, unit, national, or collective self-defense: US nationals, their
property, US commercial
1. Attempt to De-escalate the Situation. When time and circumstances permit, warn assets, and/or other
designated non-US
the hostile force and give it the opportunity to withdraw or stop its threatening forces, foreign nationals,
actions. and their property
2. Use Proportional Force to Control the Situation. When it is necessary to use force in
self-defense, the engagement should not exceed that required to counter the hostile
act or hostile intent and to ensure the protection of US forces or other protected hostile intent
people or property. the threat of imminent
3. Attack to Disable or Destroy. Units may attack to disable or destroy a hostile force use of force against
the United States,
when such action is the only prudent way to prevent or terminate the hostile act or US forces, and in
demonstration of hostile intent. When such conditions exist, units may engage only certain circumstances,
while the hostile force continues to commit hostile acts or exhibit hostile intent. US nationals, their
property, US commercial
assets, and/or other
designated non-US
forces, foreign nationals,
and their property

Critical Thinking
Describe the meaning of this statement on a large scale and on a personal scale:
A Soldiers response to a threat must be both necessary and proportional.

The Law of War protects both innocent civilians and military forces from
inhumane methods of warfare. It provides a firm moral and legal foundation for
conducting US military action. Army leaders at all levels have the legal and moral
obligation not only to adhere to the Law of War but to report its violations. As a
leader, you must instill the same sense of duty and obligation in your Soldiers.
When threatened by enemies who often adopt asymmetric tactics in an
attempt to defeat US forces, the worst response for you under these conditions
would be to retaliate indiscriminately and contrary to the restrictions imposed
by the ROE and the Law of War. To abandon the values and beliefs that the US
military and American society hold dear would be to hand victory to the enemy.

Learning Assessment
1. Describe the actions that prevent Law of War violations and war crimes.
2. Explain the key elements of the Hague and Geneva Conventions that pertain
to small-unit combat operations.
3. Explain the process to report violations when they occur.
4. Explain the relationship between Rules of Engagement and the Law of War.
5. Explain how ROE prevent engagement of unlawful targets and the excessive
use of force.

Key Words
Geneva Conventions
Hague Conventions
Law of War
jus in bello
jus ad bellum
prisoner of war (POW)
Rules of Engagement
hostile force
hostile act
hostile intent
Law of War and Rules of Engagement (ROE) 77

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 3121.01A. Appendix A. Standing Rules
of Engagement for US Forces. 15 January 2000. Retrieved 8 May 2008 from 101/dod/docs/cjcs_sroe.pdf
DoDD 2311.01E, DoD Law of War Program. 9 May 2006.
Field Manual 1-02, Operational Terms and Graphics. 21 September 2004.
Field Manual 3-0, Operations. 14 June 2001.
Field Manual 27-10, The Law of Land Warfare. 15 July 1976.
Smith, R. J., & Tyson, A. S. (2005, March 7). Shootings by US at Iraq Checkpoints
Questioned. The Washington Post, p. A01.
Taguba, A. (2004). Article 15-6 Investigation of the 800th Military Police Brigade.
Retrieved 12 May 2005 from