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7 Methods of Combat

Dieter Fleck

From: The Handbook of International Humanitarian Law (4th Edition)

Edited By: Dieter Fleck

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 01 October 2023

Reprisal — Armed conflict — Conduct of hostilities

This chapter focuses on methods of combat under international humanitarian law. The fundamental idea underlying all humanitarian rules on methods and means of warfare has always been the concept of military necessity. According to the traditional approach, only the use of those means and methods of combat which are necessary to attain the military purposes of war, purposes based on the ultimate goal of overpowering the enemy armed forces, are permitted. Accordingly, the civilian population and civilian objects do not constitute legitimate military targets. Equally prohibited is the deliberately cruel killing of enemy combatants by weapons which uselessly aggravate suffering. Because these principles of ‘limited warfare’ which were formed during the nineteenth century became the nucleus of the (originally customary) laws of war, opinio juris and the practice of the nineteenth century have had a decisive impact on the shaping of modern humanitarian law. The most serious problem of rapidly developing modern warfare proved to be the use of the air force.

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