Midway assessment: NATO Rules of Engagement: hostile intent, hostile act, self-defence and direct participation in hostilities
PhD candidate Camilla Guldahl Cooper at the Norwegian Defence Command and Staff College and at the Department of Public and International Law is presenting her doctorate project "NATO Rules of Engagement: hostile intent, hostile act, self-defence and direct participation in hostilities".
Camilla Guldahl Cooper Copyright: The Norwegian Army
Dr. Marten Zwanenburg,
Ministry of Defense of the Netherlands
Leader of the assessment:
Head of Department Ulf Stridbeck
Professor Alf Petter Høgberg
Professor Michael N. Schmitt,
US Naval War College
NATO Rules of Engagement: hostile intent, hostile act, self-defence and direct participation in hostilities
During NATO operations, the use of force and other acts which may be construed as provocative is controlled through rules of engagement (ROE). ROEs function as a tool for command and control, and are formed on the basis of applicable law, political considerations and operational considerations. The research is focusing on two concrete NATO ROEs and their application during armed conflict: those authorising attack against persons demonstrating a hostile intent (not constituting an imminent attack) or who commit or directly contribute to a hostile act (not constituting an actual attack). These ROEs are expressed to be intended to harmonise the ability to respond to the actions of a potential enemy. This need is said to arise from the fact that national rights of self-defence differ, with the consequence that there is not always consistency between the nations as to where the right to use force in self-defence ends and the use of force authorised begins. It is therefore common to argue that legal bases for these ROEs are self-defence. However, targeting during armed conflict is normally done on the basis of the law of armed conflict, not self-defence, and the definitions of hostile intent and hostile act appear to exclude the possibility of self-defence as the legal basis. There is thus a need to clarify the legal basis for the use of force authorised by these ROEs, and secondly, what the remaining scope of application is for the use of self-defence by armed forces during armed conflict.