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Beyond the Myth of a Non-relationship: International Law and World War I

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image of Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d'histoire du droit international

This article examines the relationship between international law and World War I from a basic perspective. The first question is whether, and to what degree, international law can or should be regarded as a contributing cause for the outbreak of World War I. Three aspects of international law prior to World War I are discussed: the silent ‘alliance’ between the ius ad bellum and social Darwinism, the lack of individual accountability of the members of the political and military elites under international law, and the role of the law of reprisal as a ‘fire accelerant’ of conflicts. The second focal point lies on central questions of international law during the war. Again, three aspects are addressed: the relationship between international law and new weapons as well as new methods of warfare, legal issues related to long-term occupations and the role of international law with respect to prisoners of war.

Affiliations: 1: University of Zurich ZurichSwitzerland


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