Practice Relating to Rule 57. Ruses of War
Côte d’Ivoire’s Teaching Manual (2007) provides in Book I (Basic instruction):
The principle of limitation determines permitted means and prohibited means.
- What are the means and methods of warfare that can be used?
- ruses of war.
A ruse of war is intended to mislead the adversary and to induce him to act recklessly. It must not infringe the rules of the law of war.
Examples of ruses of war are: decoys, camouflage, misinformation, mock operations.
Perfidy is different from a ruse of war and is condemned by the law of war.
In Book III, Volume 1 (Instruction of first-year trainee officers), the Teaching Manual provides:
II.1. Ruses of war
This is a term of customary law which essentially means deception. Every good military leader has recourse to ruses or to surprise in order to defeat the enemy or to create turmoil. Deceiving the enemy as regards the military situation, in particular regarding the size of your own forces, their location, and your intentions and plans, has always been, through the ages, a customary instrument of the conduct of war. Ruses of war are permitted. They comprise acts which are intended to mislead the adversary and to induce him to act recklessly, but without infringing the law of armed conflicts and without recourse to perfidy. A few examples:
- natural camouflage and concealment, or in the form of nets, camouflage paints or smoke to hide movements;
- feigned or simulated attacks in order to surprise the defenceless enemy;
- use of imitation weapons, such as rubber or wooden models of tanks or planes, to deceive or unsettle the enemy as regards the friendly forces or their deployment;
- transmission of misleading messages on the radio frequencies of the enemy, deciphering of passwords and codes;
- false information, disinformation or psychological operations intended to sow confusion or to demoralize, under the condition that the intention is not to spread terror among the civilian population.
All measures of deception of that type are perfectly lawful under the law. On the other hand, IHL prohibits recourse to perfidy with the aim to kill, injure or capture an enemy.
In Book IV (Instruction of heads of division and company commanders), the Teaching Manual provides:
I.1. Lawful tactics
I.1.1. Ruses of war
Ruses of war are measures taken with a view to obtain an advantage over the enemy by surprising him or by deceiving him. …
Ruses of war are more officially defined as acts intended to mislead an adversary or to induce him to act recklessly. They must not infringe any rule whatsoever of IHL. They are lawful if they are not treacherous or perfidious acts and if they do not violate any tacit or express understanding whatsoever.
Examples of lawful ruses:
- feigned attack, feigned withdrawal;
- simulation of silence or inactivity;
- attribution of big centres of resistance to a small force;
- construction of works, bridges, etc., with no foreseen use;
- transmission of fictional messages, newspapers or dispatches, with a view to their interception by the enemy;
- use of enemy transmissions;
- movement of landmarks;
- placement of imitation canons, assault tanks, airplanes and runways;
- placement of imitation mines;
- suppression of insignia of uniforms;