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A Critical Decision Point On The Battlefield – Friend, Foe Or Innocent Bystander

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Chapter Summary

The international law of armed conflict requires attackers and defenders alike to take precautions to reduce the risk of collateral damage and civilian injury. There are three classifications of human shields: proximity human shields, involuntary human shields/hostages, and voluntary human shields. Asymmetric warfare refers, in general, to tactics employed by states and non-state groups who strive to strike weak points in the social, economic, and political structures of militarily superior nations or forces in an effort to avoid direct confrontation with these stronger forces. Commanders are faced with many decision points once terrorist organizations or enemy forces introduce human shields into the equation. The decision the commander makes in the final analysis is determined by a combination of the following factors: intelligence information; the conduct of the specific individual; field circumstances at the relevant time; the commanders prior experience; the conduct of additional individuals in the surrounding area.

Keywords: armed conflict; asymmetric warfare; human shields; international law



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