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45 Naval L. Rev. 126 (1998)
Rules of Engagement and the Concept of Unit Self Defense

handle is hein.journals/naval45 and id is 132 raw text is: Rules of Engagement and the Concept of Unit Self Defense

Lieutenant Commander Dale Stephens l
Rules of Engagement (ROE) have come into their own as an indispensable
tool for the application of force in accordance with national and
international priorities. ROE exist to direct when and how military force is
to be applied.2 Given this significance, almost all ROE that are authorized
for a particular mission are reviewed by the national command authority in
accordance with exacting politico-legal imperatives.3 At the strategic level,
the rules which allow for the application of force will generally be
authorized pursuant to the national right of self defense as it applies under
the United Nations Charter (the UN Charter) and in accordance with
supporting customary international law.'
The right of unit self defense, applies quite independently of this process of
determining applicable ROE. In essence, the right of unit self defense
allows a commander, or an individual soldier, sailor or airman the
automatic authority to defend his or her unit, or him or herself, in certain
well defined circumstances. While the right of unit self defense is
fundamental to all international military legal codes, there has been little
'Lieutenant Commander Dale Stephens, Royal Australian Navy, serves as Command Legal
Officer, Naval Training Command, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. His previous
assignments include Deputy Fleet Legal Officer, Maritime Headquarters and Legal Officer,
Directorate of Operational and International Law. LCDR Stephens is a graduate of
Cambridge University's International Law reading program and holds a Bachelor of Arts,
Bachelor of Laws (Honors), and a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice. The author wishes to
acknowledge the invaluable assistance of LCDR J. Nelson, JAGC, U.S. Navy and Squadron
Leader J. Hugoe-Matthews, RAAF in drafting this article.
2 P. M. Lorenz, Standing Rules of Engagement: Rules to Live By, MARiNE CoRPs GAZETTE,
Feb. 1996, at 20. The United States definition of ROE is contained in the NWP 1-14M
which states that ROE delineate the circumstances and limitations under which U.S. naval,
ground and air forces will initiate and/or continue the combat engagement with other forces
HANDBOOK ON THE LAW OF NAVAL OPERATIONS, Preface 2 (1995) [hereinafter NWP 1-
14M]. The Australian definition of ROE, however, is a little wider and allows for the
regulation of any application of force.
3 A. Roach, Rules of Engagement, 34 NAVAL WAR C. REV. 46, 47-48 (1983).
' The right of national self defense derives principally from Article 51 of the United Nations
Charter which states
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual
or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the
United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to
maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in
the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the
Security Council and shall not in any way effect the authority and
responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at
any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore
international peace and security.

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