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will the defaults still the the same

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Military Markings and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Military Markings and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

The duty to distinguish oneself from non-combatants and civilians (e.g., by wearing a uniform or distinctive emblem) is a characteristic of every domain of warfare, including the aerial environment. In naval and air warfare, the main focus of distinction is on...

U.S. Strike Cells: Dispelling the Myths

U.S. Strike Cells: Dispelling the Myths

Last August, in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the world witnessed a disastrous incident in Kabul when ten Afghan civilians, including up to seven children, were killed by a U.S. drone strike meant for ISIS. It was a truly tragic event, without...

Ukraine Symposium – Is the Law of Neutrality Dead?

Ukraine Symposium – Is the Law of Neutrality Dead?

The 2022 Russia-Ukraine conflict has rekindled the debate about the validity of qualified neutrality during an international armed conflict. The concept is sometimes also referred to as benevolent neutrality. Since Russia’s invasion this year, nearly 40 nations,...

The Law of Armed Conflict in 2040

The Law of Armed Conflict in 2040

In the summer of 2020, the Lieber Institute team and I convened a workshop at West Point titled “LOAC 2040.” We invited a group of law of armed conflict (LOAC) scholars and practitioners from around the world, and with a range of perspectives, to consider how that...

Abu ‘Aram: Displacement of Persons, Displacement of Law

Abu ‘Aram: Displacement of Persons, Displacement of Law

On May 4, 2022, Israel’s Supreme Court sitting as High Court of Justice handed down its decision in HCJ 413/13 Abu ‘Aram v. The Minister of Defense. This decision granted the Israeli military authorities permission to displace over 1,000 Palestinians (and possibly as...

Ukraine Symposium – Are We at War?

Ukraine Symposium – Are We at War?

Last week, allegations that the United States and a number of other NATO nations are providing intelligence to Ukraine that enables attacks against Russian forces continued to surface. Broadly speaking, the reports of intelligence sharing are credible. As Chairman of...

Augmented Reality Battlefield

Augmented Reality Battlefield

States are prioritizing measures to enhance soldiers’ situational awareness during military operations, including the development of augmented reality capabilities. Augmented reality, as distinguished from virtual reality, superimposes digital content on a live view...

Putin and Xi’s Pact for Outer Space

Putin and Xi’s Pact for Outer Space

On the eve of the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a joint statement on entering a new era of international relations—including in outer space. The February 4 statement enunciated the importance of...

The Creeping Normality of LOAC Noncompliance

The Creeping Normality of LOAC Noncompliance

Taking stock of the state of the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) may be one of the most important tasks facing international law today. In that vein, it is well worth asking whether the Law of Armed Conflict is still “fit for purpose”? As the current conflict in Ukraine...

Ukraine Symposium – Unprecedented Environmental Risks

Ukraine Symposium – Unprecedented Environmental Risks

Environmental damage in armed conflict is generally caused in four ways: (1) the conduct of hostilities, i.e., the use of means and methods of warfare (weapons and tactics); (2) natural resource extraction and exploitation; (3) the military environmental footprint in...

Ukraine Symposium – War Crimes against Children

Ukraine Symposium – War Crimes against Children

For the 452 million children living in conflict zones (1 in 6 globally), the effects of conflict are multiple, wide-ranging, and devastating. With an increase in asymmetric warfare globally, children are targets of horrific acts of violence, including killing,...

Hunter 2-S Swarming Attack Drones: Legal & Ethical Dimensions

Hunter 2-S Swarming Attack Drones: Legal & Ethical Dimensions

Halcon, a defense company based in the United Arab Emirates, unveiled its aerial fleet of swarming drones—Hunter 2-S—at the Unmanned System Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi on February 21, 2022. The small-sized Hunter 2-S modular launching system is the latest...

Command Responsibility and the Ukraine Conflict

Command Responsibility and the Ukraine Conflict

The news on the conflict in Ukraine is replete with violations of international humanitarian law (IHL), conveying the impression that soldiers have either been ordered to commit these crimes or have been allowed to do so (or a combination thereof). In the latter case,...

Weaponizing Food

Weaponizing Food

The conflict in Ukraine is threatening the world’s food system. For instance, Ukraine and Russia supply around 30% of global wheat and barley exports. And over 40% of Ukrainian wheat export goes to Africa, where food shortages are endemic. In a March 25 update, the UN...

The Law and Character of War in 2035

The Law and Character of War in 2035

In fall of 2020, the Lieber Institute for Law and Warfare at West Point joined a U.S. Army Futures Command (AFC) multi-year study on the changing character of warfare. The study has convened three times annually since. Its purpose is to predict and identify...

The War at Sea: Is There a Naval Blockade in the Sea of Azov?

The War at Sea: Is There a Naval Blockade in the Sea of Azov?

Although land operations have garnered most attention, the war between Ukraine and the Russian Federation also rages at and from the sea. During these last weeks, several merchant vessels were attacked and seized, some apparently within the territorial sea of a NATO...

A Ukraine No-Fly Zone: Further Thoughts on Law and Policy

A Ukraine No-Fly Zone: Further Thoughts on Law and Policy

In a recent post, my friend and colleague, Professor Michael Schmitt set out some of the legal issues relating to the imposition of a no-fly zone over Ukraine. This post reemphasizes some of the points he raised. It also introduces a note of caution into the...

Are Thermobaric Weapons Lawful?

Are Thermobaric Weapons Lawful?

The Russian Federation has deployed and likely used thermobaric weapons during its invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States alleged that Russia “used the vacuum bomb today, which is actually prohibited by the Geneva Conventions,” while American...

Are Mercenaries in Ukraine?

Are Mercenaries in Ukraine?

Reports suggest both Russia and Ukraine are recruiting and supplementing forces in ways that potentially implicate international legal rules related to mercenaries. This post, after surveying media reports of mercenaries in Ukraine, examines the law-of-war rules...

Portending Genocide in Ukraine?

Portending Genocide in Ukraine?

As Russian forces continue their brutal invasion of Ukraine, worrisome signs are emerging about the prospect of genocide. While the term is used rather freely in the media, the prospect of actual genocide returning to Europe for the first time in nearly thirty years...

Time for a New War Crimes Commission?

Time for a New War Crimes Commission?

The shock of invasion remains fresh and raw. And yet it must cede room for new shocks, for the quotidian tremors caused by reports that Russian troops have shelled homes and maternity hospitals, dropped cluster bombs on schools, seized nuclear plants, and forced more...

A No-Fly Zone over Ukraine and International Law

A No-Fly Zone over Ukraine and International Law

In an impassioned address to the U.S. Congress on March 16, Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, asked the United States for additional military assistance, including the establishment of a no-fly zone. This is a terror that Europe has not seen, has not seen for...

Displacement from Conflict: Old Realities, New Protections?

Displacement from Conflict: Old Realities, New Protections?

Globally, conflicts are the main source of both internal and cross-border displacement. The conflict prompted by Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine, which is a considerable escalation from the original incursion in 2014, has already caused the largest external...

The ICJ’s Provisional Measures Order: Unprecedented

The ICJ’s Provisional Measures Order: Unprecedented

​On March 16, 2022, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rendered its provisional measures order in the application brought by Ukraine against Russia under the Genocide Convention, arguing, inter alia, that Russia’s invasion was an unlawful abuse of its obligation...

Ukraine’s Legal Counterattack

Ukraine’s Legal Counterattack

Beyond its endurance on the battlefield, Ukraine has launched a legal counterattack against Russia in the courts. The normally slow-moving, process-heavy gears of international justice are now moving at relative lightspeed in response to Russia’s illegal invasion of...

Law Applicable to Persons Fleeing Armed Conflicts

Law Applicable to Persons Fleeing Armed Conflicts

As early as February 23rd, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, estimated that 5 million people may flee if hostilities erupted in Ukraine. As of March 13th, less than three weeks after the Russian Federation launched an...

Common Article 1 and the Conflict in Ukraine

Common Article 1 and the Conflict in Ukraine

​The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing armed conflict raise a host of questions related to international humanitarian law (IHL). Some of these concern the legal relationship between Russia and Ukraine only. Others are also directly relevant for States that...

On War

On War

As the invasion of Ukraine was starting, the Russian Ambassador to the United Nationals responded to the Ukrainian Special Envoy “Don’t call this a war. This is called a ‘special military operation in Donbass.’” Other Russian Ambassadors reiterated the statement...

Siege Law

Siege Law

Images of the million or more persons who have fled toward neighboring States highlight the tragic humanitarian impact of the ongoing armed conflict between Ukraine and Russia. However, a worse fate could await those unable to flee. Despite a slower than expected...

Combatant Privileges and Protections

Combatant Privileges and Protections

Discussions of the status of persons in armed conflict over the past two decades have centered on the paucity of rules for such categorizations and difficult questions of detention authority, treatment obligations, distinction, and identification of members of...

Prisoners of War in Occupied Territory

Prisoners of War in Occupied Territory

It seems increasingly likely that the international armed conflict raging in Ukraine will devolve into a partial Russian occupation of large portions of Ukrainian territory. President Putin may very well declare annexation—or reincorporation—of that territory into...

The Abuse of “Peacekeeping”

The Abuse of “Peacekeeping”

​On 21 February, President Vladimir Putin explained that Russian forces would enter Ukraine to “perform peacekeeping functions.” Earlier this year the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) also deployed “peacekeeping forces” to Kazakhstan, predominately made...

Closing the Turkish Straits in Times of War

Closing the Turkish Straits in Times of War

On February 21, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic as independent States and purportedly deployed Russian “peacekeeping” troops to the breakaway Ukrainian regions to maintain...

Are Molotov Cocktails Lawful Weapons?

Are Molotov Cocktails Lawful Weapons?

A frequent feature of violent riots and revolts, the Molotov cocktail has reappeared in reports of Ukraine’s preparations to resist the ongoing Russian invasion. Although undoubtedly symbolic of resolve to resist using all means available, whether Ukrainians’ use of...

Ukraine and the Defender’s Obligations

Ukraine and the Defender’s Obligations

In a recent post, I expressed my concern over the ability of the modern law of armed conflict (LOAC) to continue to not only regulate hostilities, but also do it in a way that survives actual near-peer conflict. I concluded: The lack of near-peer hostilities for the...

Deepfake Technology in the Age of Information Warfare

Deepfake Technology in the Age of Information Warfare

Prior to its invasion of Ukraine, there were speculations that Russia was planning to produce a graphic fake video showing a Ukrainian attack as a pretext for an invasion. Although this “false flag” operation did not play a major role in the end, deepfake technology...

Neutrality in the War against Ukraine

Neutrality in the War against Ukraine

This contribution briefly addresses the question of whether and to what extent States that are not parties to the war against Ukraine are bound by the law of neutrality. In particular, are these States obliged to refrain from any assistance to Ukraine, including by...

Cluster Munitions and the Ukraine War

Cluster Munitions and the Ukraine War

There are reports that cluster munitions have been used by both sides during the Ukraine Wars. Is such use lawful? Cluster munitions can, in general terms, be defined as “weapons that open in mid-air and disperse smaller sub-munitions—anything from a few dozen to...

Legal Status of Ukraine’s Resistance Forces

Legal Status of Ukraine’s Resistance Forces

In the lead up to Russia’s invasion, Ukraine prepared to defend its territory by, among other things, training its citizens to serve as a “resistance in waiting.” The extent to which these resistance forces have engaged Russian invaders to date remains unclear. What...

Reentering the Loop

Reentering the Loop

The warfighting advantages of using lethal autonomous systems, and the potential costs of not using them, seem to guarantee their role in future armed conflict. This post argues that optimizing their effectiveness involves not only improving their independent...