Laws of war

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The law of war is a body of law concerning acceptable justifications to engage in war (jus ad bellum) and the limits to acceptable wartime conduct (jus in bello). The law of war is considered an aspect of public international law (the law of nations) and is distinguished from other bodies of law, such as the domestic law of a particular belligerent to a conflict, that may also provide legal limits to the conduct or justification of war.

Among other issues, modern laws of war address declarations of war, acceptance of surrender and the treatment of prisoners of war, military necessity along with distinction and proportionality, and the prohibition of certain weapons that may cause unnecessary suffering.[1]


Early sources and history

Attempts to define and regulate the conduct of individuals, nations, and other agents in war and to mitigate the worst effects of war have a long history. The earliest known instances are found in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).[citation needed] For example, Deuteronomy 20:19-20 limits the amount of acceptable collateral and environmental damage:

Similarly, Deuteronomy 21:10-14 requires that female captives who were forced to marry the victors of a war could not be sold as slaves.[3]

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