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Belligerent Reprisals Revisited

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Chapter Summary

The international law of armed conflict aims to regulate the conduct of hostilities by belligerent parties and their armed forces and to protect certain especially vulnerable categories of persons, such as prisoners of war and the inhabitants of occupied territories. This chapter examines one classic device, available to the parties to the conflict and recognized since time immemorial as an institution of customary international law. It is the belligerent reprisal, i.e. an act in breach of a specific rule of the law of armed conflict, directed by one belligerent party against another party with a view to inducing the latter to stop violating this particular or some other rule of this body of law. The first treaty prohibition on a specific case of recourse to reprisals dates back to 1929. The main features of the survey of existing prohibitions on belligerent reprisals are summarized in the chapter.

Keywords: belligerent reprisals; customary international law; internal armed conflict; occupied territories



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