IRRC No. 882

Reasons why armed groups choose to respect international humanitarian law or not

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The decision to respect the law – or not – is far from automatic, regardless of whether it is taken by an armed group or a state. Respect for IHL can only be encouraged, and hence improved, if the reasons used by armed groups to justify respect or lack of it are understood and if the arguments in favour of respect take those reasons into account. Among the reasons for respecting the law, two considerations weigh particularly heavily for armed groups: their self-image and the military advantage. Among the reasons for non-respect, three are uppermost: the group's objective, the military advantage, and what IHL represents according to the group.

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