IRRC No. 878

Military involvement in law enforcement

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Law enforcement is not a task usually undertaken by military forces, at least within domestic legal contexts. Conversely, maintaining or restoring security within dysfunctional or 'post-conflict' areas of operation is a role commonly undertaken by them. Within these latter operations, the skill sets and highly calibrated application of force that are commonly associated with police forces in their law enforcement role are in fact manifested in a decisively military context. This article reviews the experiences and legal frameworks associated with military participation in two separate types of mission, namely UN-sponsored peace operations and unilateral/multilateral stabilization and counter-insurgency operations. It argues that these contexts have demanded a revised interpretative approach to the applicable law, one that is much more sensitive to social and political effect.

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