This article is written by Akhilandeswari Bonam,a student of Sri Padmavati Mahila Visvavidyalayam, Tirupati.


Means and Methods of Warfare are the procedures by which the military commanders used the weapons in conflicts.
Where conflicts arise between two armed forces or civilians, the military commanders use the strategies of methods of warfare against an enemy.
The strategies and techniques which are used in conflicts are the methods of warfare. A number of methods are specifically prohibited under treaty and customary IHL. Means of warfare are the weapons or weapons systems used. Example: chemical weapons, anti-personnel mines etc. The use of a specific weapon in armed conflict can be completely prohibited and the weapon itself considered unlawful.


The IHL states the objective of war is to weaken and overpower the opponent’s military forces. It restricts the weapons and their ways of usage in war.
IHL prohibits the means and methods which cause unnecessary injuries and suffering. IHL also prohibits the means and methods which
1. fail to discriminate between military commanders and civilians,
2. cause severe damage to the environment.
The purpose of prohibition is to protect population, individual civilians and civilian property.
IHL has therefore banned the use of many weapons, including exploding bullets, biological and chemical weapons and laser weapons etc. The purpose of HL is to strike a balance between military necessities and human needs.

Precautions in Attack

• To verify that the objectives to be attacked are in fact legitimate military targets
• To choose means and methods of warfare to avoid or minimize collateral damage
• To refrain launching an attack which does not meet the proportionality test.

Restrictions under IHL

The IHL forbids the killing or wounding of any enemy person who surrenders or is unable to fight, they must be protected by the party in whose power they found themselves. It also restricts to provide medical personnel, hospitals, supplies and ambulances.
Weapons Prohibited by protocols:
i. Protocol I prohibits the use of any weapon which causes injury by fragments.
ii. Protocol II prohibits the use of mines, booby traps and other similar devices.
iii. Protocol III prohibits the use of incendiary weapons and the weapons which are       primarily set to cause fire on opponents.
iv. Protocol IV prohibits the use of laser weapons specifically designed to cause permanent blindness.
v. Protocol V requires the parties to a conflict to take measures to reduce the dangers posed by explosive remnants of war.
These protocols applied to both international and non-international armed conflicts after the 2001 amendment.

Limitations of warfare adopted by the Philippines

The Philippines has ratified almost all relevant IHL treaties and conventions. It is also one of the first Asian countries to adopt a domestic law providing punishments for violations of IHL and an act protecting the use of the Red Cross and other emblems. The Philippines have integrated the teaching of IHL in the armed forces, judiciary and police institutions.

Rights of Prisoners under IHL

There are detailed rules governing the conditions of detention for prisoners of war and the way in which civilians are to be treated when under the authority of an enemy power. These rights include  provision of food, shelter and medical care and also right to communicate with their families.
The rules and regulations on the conduct of hostilities:
Principle of Military necessity: It permits measures which are actually necessary to accomplish a legitimate military purpose and are not otherwise prohibited by IHL.
Principle of Distinction: It prohibits Indiscriminate attacks.
Principle of Proportionality: It prohibits attacks which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury or damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated. Where conflicts severely take place this principle becomes more crucial.

Three Criteria for Direct Participation in Hostilities

  1. Action must be likely to cause harm, it also consists in any death, injury or destruction of a person’s or objects protected against attacks including civilians and civilian objects.
  2. Direct causation: According to ICRC the harm in question must be brought about in one casual step.
  3. Belligerent Nexus: The act must be closely related to the hostilities and constitute an integral part.

Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross

The fundamental principles of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent are seven, they were adopted in 1965.
1. Humanity      
2. Impartiality   
3. Neutrality
4. Independence
5. Voluntary Service
6. Unity
7. Universality

Out of seven, the four are the core principles.

1. Humanity: It is the essential principle of humanitarian action, it sets the whole purpose of humanitarian action which is to prevent and alleviate suffering of people affected by humanitarian crisis but also to protect life and natural respect for human dignity.
2. Impartiality: It is an integral part of this idea of humanity. The relief action will be given irrespective of the political sympathies, or race, religion or gender. Aid should be based only on urgency and severity of the needs and also irrespective of personal bias.

It has three important aspects:

• Non-discrimination    

• Proportionality

• Exclusion of personal bias.

3. Neutrality: It has two main aspects

I. Military neutrality, which is not taking side hostilities.
II. Ideological and religious neutrality, which is to abstain to engage in controversies of religious, political nature.

4. Independence: It is about maintaining autonomy from any parties to the third party in a given conflict i.e., either political or  economic and military interests of any party in a given conflict.

Public International Law provides some guidance on the type of conduct that would be arbitrary and circumstances in which withholding consent would be arbitrary, essentially it is in three situations.

1. Withheld in circumstances that would violate a party’s other obligations under IL towards the civilian population in question.

2. If withholding consent violates the principles of necessity and proportionality.

3. If consent is withheld in a manner and that is unreasonable and just lacking in predictability or otherwise inappropriate.

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