Human Shields in International Humanitarian Law

  • Michael N. SchmittEmail author


This chapter explores the international humanitarian law governing the use of human shields, a tragically prevalent tactic in contemporary warfare. It begins by setting forth the express prohibitions on the use of human shields. Of more concern is the issue of how the use of human shields affects an attacker’s obligations. The chapter distinguishes between compelled and voluntary shielding. It argues that those compelled to shield retain all the protections to which they are entitled as civilians during an attack. By contrast, those who voluntarily shield a military objective qualify as “direct participants in hostilities” who lose immunity from attack during the period of participation. Their status as direct participants also influences battlefield application of both the proportionality rule and the legal requirement to take feasible precautions in attack. The chapter concludes by suggesting that in cases of doubt as to whether shielding is voluntary, the shields should be treated as acting involuntarily.


Supra Note Rome Statute Geneva Convention Additional Protocol Israel Defence Force 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.




International Criminal Court


International Committee of the Red Cross


International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda


International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia


Israel Defense Forces


North Atlantic Treaty Organization


Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe


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Copyright information

© T.M.C. ASSER PRESS, The Hague, The Netherlands, and the authors 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.United States Naval War CollegeNewportUSA

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