Rules of Engagement (ROE) are rules or directives to military forces (including individuals) that define the circumstances, conditions, degree, and manner in which force, or actions which might be construed as provocative, may be applied. They provide authorization for and/or limits on, among other things, the use of force and the employment of certain specific capabilities. In some nations, ROE have the status of guidance to military forces, while in other nations, ROE are lawful commands. Rules of Engagement do not normally dictate how a result is to be achieved but will indicate what measures may be unacceptable.
While ROE are used in both domestic and international operations by most militaries, in the United States, ROE are not used for domestic operations. Instead, use of force by US forces in such situations is governed by Rules for the Use of Force (RUF). An abbreviated description of the Rules of Engagement may be issued to all personnel. Commonly referred to as an "ROE Card", this document provides the soldier with a summary of the ROE regulating the use of force for a particular mission.
While many countries have their own rules of engagement documents, many others do not. There are two primary international rules of engagement manuals that are internationally available; NATO ROE Manual MC 362-1, and the San Remo Rules of Engagement Handbook. Of the two, only the San Remo Handbook is publicly available. Created for the International Institute of Humanitarian Law by Commander Alan Cole, Major Phillip Drew, Captain Rob McLaughlin and Professor Dennis Mandsager, the San Remo ROE Handbook has been translated from its English original into French, Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, Hungarian, Russian, Bosnian, and Thai. Several countries have used the San Remo handbook as a model for creating their own ROE systems.
The International Institute of Humanitarian Law in San Remo, Italy conducts a Rules of Engagement training course at least once per year, usually in September. Taught by some of the world's foremost authorities on ROE, the course attracts students from around the globe. Similar training by the San Remo ROE drafting team is conducted for the United Nations, the IMO and other organizations as requested.
- NATO MC 362/1
- Cole, Drew, McLaughlin, Mandsager, San Remo Rules of Engagement Handbook (San Remo: International Institute for Humanitarian Law, 2009)
- Cole, Drew, McLaughlin, Mandsager, San Remo Rules of Engagement Handbook (San Remo: International Institute for Humanitarian Law, 2009)p.71
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