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Instructions for the Armed Forces

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Chapter Summary

This chapter focuses on instructions for the armed forces, as a means to bring the abstract rules and principles of the international law of armed conflict to bear on concrete events of war by influencing the behaviour of those many individuals who, as members of the armed forces, may be required to cope with the variegated reality of the conduct of war. One way to decide the issue is for a State to lay down what it regards as the applicable rules of international law in instructions for the armed forces. The international law of armed conflict may lay down desirable norms for the conduct of hostilities; national authorities may translate the internationally agreed norms more or less faithfully into codes of conduct, rules of engagement or however the instructions for their armed forces may be styled; but decisive remains the human element: where this fails, the law is powerless.

Keywords: armed conflict; armed forces; international law

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