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Pentagon Releases Guidelines to Legal Warfare Principles

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Pentagon officials today released the Defense Department's first law of war manual, culminating a multiyear, combined effort to compile legal principles governing warfare.

“DoD’s new manual provides a comprehensive and up-to-date treatment of the law of war for the practical use of operational lawyers and others at headquarters and in the field,” said DoD General Counsel Stephen W. Preston.

“It reflects the U.S. military’s longstanding commitment to the rule of law and represents an important milestone in our ongoing implementation of the law of war,” he said.

Multiyear Effort

According to officials, the law of war manual is the product of a multiyear effort by military and civilian lawyers across the DoD who sought to develop a departmentwide resource for military commanders, legal practitioners, and other military and civilian personnel on the international law principles governing armed conflict.

The United States has a long tradition of leadership in the law of war, officials said, including the promulgation of instructions on the law of war for its armed forces dating back to President Abraham Lincoln’s approval of the “Instructions for the Government of the Armies of the United States in the Field” during the Civil War.

Additionally, the United States is a party to treaties that require the dissemination of information regarding the law of war, officials said.

Although each of the military services have previously published respected works on the law of war that have served as valuable resources for their personnel, officials noted the DoD Law of War manual will be the first resource of this type to be issued departmentwide.

(Follow Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallDoDNews)

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