Dear code

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The Dear Code , an instruction signed by then US President Abraham Lincoln on April 24, 1863 to the troops of the Northern States in the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865, was the first written set of rules in history with specifications for warfare . Since 1863 it has formed the basis for a corresponding field manual for the American armed forces under the title "Instructions for the Government of Armies of the Unites States in the Field" . For more than fifty years it remained the officially declared martial law of the American army for land warfare. Although the rules contained in the Lieber Code were only binding for Union troops during the American Civil War, they had a significant influence on the later development and codification of international martial law .

Origin and content

Named after the German-born jurist, legal philosopher and encyclopaedist Francis Lieber with the full title "Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field", 157 articles contained, among other things, provisions on military jurisdiction (Section I), on how to deal with the Civilian population in occupied territories (Section II), on dealing with deserters and prisoners of war (Section III), on treating partisans and guerrilla fighters (Section IV) as well as spies and traitors (Section V). In addition, questions of the armistice and surrender were settled (Section VIII). For the first time in military history, the order not to pardon and kill the defeated and surrendering opponent was generally forbidden and only permitted "in great distress, when it is impossible for his own sake to burden himself with prisoners" . The use of any kind of toxic substances in warfare was also prohibited . Also noteworthy was the stipulation that opposing medical staff and pastors were not considered prisoners of war. The rules of the Lieber Code, however, also allow punitive measures such as the seizure or destruction of property, the capturing of hostages and the execution of guerrilla fighters and saboteurs in the event of poor cooperation among the population .

Francis Lieber, then a professor at Columbia College in New York , developed the Lieber Code in collaboration with army officers . Important guidelines in the formulation of the rules were the principle of military necessity and thus the avoidance of unnecessary suffering, as well as the humane treatment of prisoners of war and the population of occupied areas. When formulating the Lieber Code, Lieber had to take into account that Lincoln did not see the Confederates as legitimate opponents of the war, but as rebels. In accordance with this stipulation, the Lieber Code differentiated between partisans and guerrillas ( war rebels ). Partisans were recognized as part of the regular army, primarily attacking the enemy's supply lines and means of communication. Guerrillas were those who fought in a completely irregular manner, plundered or killed prisoners of war. This distinction between partisan and guerrilla was also constitutive in international humanitarian law and has been continued to this day, albeit with terms that correspond to the more recent war conditions.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. quoted from: Telford Taylor : The Nuremberg Trials. Background, analyzes and findings from today's perspective , Munich 1994, ISBN 3-453-08021-1 , p. 22 f.