Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Who Obeys the Laws of War?

There’s a fascinating article on, a Kurdish site: “Emergence of a better Kurdish 4GW frightens Turkey:”

An interesting observation is that HPG is now playing by all the rules set up by international conventions, treaties and war-laws [Jus in Bello] (which ARGK unfortunately occasionally broke). People in the military or with a military background will definitely see why HPG now is using remote-controlled bombs instead of anti-vehicle and anti-personnel landmines. The reason is the ‘Ottawa Treaty’. According to the ‘Ottawa Treaty’ (banning landmines) a landmine is defined as “primarily designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person and that will incapacitate , injure or kill one or more persons”. Which means that if a mine sets itself off automatically by the presence, proximity or contact of a person, it is forbidden to be used by the countries signing the treaty.

I have no information about the truth of these claims. What is interesting to me is that the HPG (the Kurdish ‘People’s Defense Force’), which the US State Department lists as a terrorist group, is declaring their adherence to the laws of war. It’s certainly interesting positioning.

(Via Global Guerrillas.)

3 comments on "Who Obeys the Laws of War?"

  • allan says:

    In no way an expert on this stuff, but is it possible that, for each specific attack, a remotely detonated bomb is more effective? Ottowa was seen as a victory because mines are planted en masse and neglected, to the devastation of post-conflict communities. If explosive devices are scarce relative to personel, then a mine holds less significant an advantage over a RC bomb. If the bomb is, in fact, more reliable or effective than a mine, switching tech is rational.

  • izar says:

    I guess it would also align with the idea that mines are blind. Guerrilas, or at least the ones that read the Little Red Book, have to conquer the minds and hearts of the local populace or they won’t have support, movement ability and recruits. Mines tend to explode on whomever steps on them, be them enemy combatants or wandering children and shepperds and what not. If you blew away my dog, you can be sure i wouldn’t be too supportive of your cause.
    Also, there’s the cost effectiveness point of view: if I can stand waaaaay far and RC detonate an IED that will take out a tank, why should I spend time and resources and expose myself sowing mines where your troops may not even thread ?
    So, it’s probably good tactics turning into nice PR for a separatist movement.

  • Iang says:

    Allan has it right, it is about cost-effectiveness not the obeying of international conventions of warfare. Mines are only marginally useful to guerillas, they are more a “big army area denial weapon” and they only have a proper place where covered with fire in established fronts.
    Those limited explosive devices that the guerillas have available to them will almost certainly be used in the best targetted fashion that is available to them. And it’s even better when their PR wing can deploy good spin on it.

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