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DoD Releases Updated Law of War Manual

DoD News Release, 13 December 2016 – Today, the Department of Defense released
an update to the Law of War Manual. The manual is a guide for DoD personnel
responsible for implementing the law of war and executing military operations.  

It reflects our country’s long tradition of respect for the law of war. This is the second
update to the manual since DoD first released it in June 2015.

The updated manual substantially enhances the discussion of the principle of
proportionality and provides minor updates to other sections.  Proportionality is a key
legal principle that helps protect civilians in armed conflict by precluding unreasonable
or excessive use of force.

“Protecting civilians in armed conflict is critical, and it’s important that our legal
guidance is clear and practical,” said DoD General Counsel Jennifer O’Connor.
“This version of the manual provides greater clarity and also reflects important
developments such as the president’s recent executive order on civilian casualties.”

The revised manual provides more examples of the precautions that DoD takes
to reduce the likelihood of causing civilian casualties, such as providing warnings,
conducting assessments of potential civilian casualties, and analyzing which weapons
to use.

The update also explains in greater detail how DoD implements the requirement to
refrain from conducting attacks when harm to civilians is expected to be excessive.
For example, the manual makes clear that civilians working in military facilities and
“human shields” generally are civilians who are protected by these requirements.

Over the last few months, DoD has participated in multiple public forums and listened
to comments and suggestions about how to improve the sections of the manual that
address proportionality.

“The department strives to be clear and transparent about the legal framework that
guides our operations,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook.  “The release
of public information such as this manual update allows for a more informed public
debate, which is crucial to the rule of law.”

The department will update the manual further as needed to ensure DoD personnel
have the best resource for understanding and complying with the law of war.

—————- Download the Updated DoD Law of War Manual ——————