Methods of warfare

The tactics or strategy used in hostilities to defeat the enemy by using available information on him together with weapons, movement and surprise. International law has sanctioned the following principles regarding means and methods of warfare:

  1. the only legitimate object of war is to weaken the enemy’s military forces, for which purpose it is sufficient to disable the greatest possible number of enemy combatants;
  2. the right to choose methods and means of warfare is not unlimited;
  3. it is prohibited to employ methods (and means) of warfare of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering;
  4. in the study, development, acquisition or adoption of new means or methods of warfare it must be determined whether their employment is not prohibited in some or all circumstances.

Prohibited methods of warfare include perfidy, terror, starvation, reprisals against non-military objectives, and indiscriminate attacks, damage to the natural environment or to works and installations containing dangerous forces; ordering that there shall be no survivors; pillage; taking hostages; taking advantage of the presence of the civilian population or population movements to promote the conduct of hostilities; improper use of distinctive emblems and signs; and attacks on persons hors de combat or parachuting from an aircraft in distress.

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CASES

 BIBLIOGRAPHIC RESOURCES

CLARK Roger S., “Building on Article 8(2)(b)(xx) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: Weapons and Methods of Warfare”, in New Criminal Law Review, Vol. 12, No. 3, 2009, pp. 366-389.
 
FRY James D., “Contextualized Legal Reviews for the Methods and Means of Warfare: Cave Combat and International Humanitarian Law”, in ColumbiaJournal of Transnational Law, Vol. 44, No. 2, 2006, pp. 453-519
 
ICRC, WASZINK, Camilla & COUPLAND Robin Michael, COLLEGE D’EUROPE, Current Perspectives on Regulating Means of Warfare: Proceedings of the Bruges Colloquium, 18-19 October 2007, Collegium, Nouvelles du Collège d’Europe No. 37, 2008, 168 pp.
 
MYJER Eric P., “Means and Methods of Warfare and the Coincidence of Norms between the Humanitarian Law of Armed Conflict and the Law of Arms Control”, in HEERE Wybo P. (ed.), International law and The Hague’s 750th anniversary, Cambridge, CUP, 1999, pp. 371-383.
 
TURNS David, “At the ‘Vanishing Point’ of International Humanitarian Law: Methods and Means of Warfare in Non-International Armed Conflicts”, German Yearbook of International Law = Jahrbuch für Internationales Recht, Vol. 45, 2002, pp. 115-148.