The interpretive guidance on the notion of direct participation in hostilities : a critical analysis
Host item entries:
Harvard national security journal, Vol. 1, 2010, p. 5-44
Michael N. Schmitt
International humanitarian law seeks to infuse the violence of war with humanitarian considerations. However, it must remain sensitive to the interest of states in conducting warfare efficiently, for no state likely to find itself on the battlefield would accept norms that place its military success, or its survival, at serious risk. As a result, IHL represents a very delicate balance between two principles: military necessity and humanity. This dialectical relationship undergirds virtually all rules of IHL and must be borne in mind in any effort to elucidate them. It is in this regard that the Interpretive Guidance falters. Although it represents an important and valuable contribution to understanding the complex notion of direct participation in hostilities, on repeated occasions its interpretations skew the balance towards humanity. Unfortunately, such deviations from the generally accepted balance will likely cause states, which are ultimately responsible for application and enforcement of the law, to view the Interpretive Guidance skeptically.