Hiding Amongst a Crowd and the Illegality of Deceptive Lighting

Naval Law Review, 2007

31 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2006

See all articles by Matthew G. Morris

Matthew G. Morris

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor


International Humanitarian Law draws a distinction between ruses of war (those acts of deception that are simply part of the dirty tricks of fighting war) and perfidy (treacherous acts that abuse the protections of IHL). The latter are variously scorned or banned, both under treaties and by custom. Although there are some historical carve-outs for behavior during war at sea that might otherwise be banned on land, there is also a practice that is embraced by the United States Navy known as deceptive lighting. This practice, of varying the configuration of electric lights abord a warship so that it appears to be something other than it really is, is described the Navy as being a legitimate ruse of war. Considering the language of treaties as well as customary international law and several pragmatic considerations, this paper argues that the practice is, and should be, illegal perfidy under IHL.

Keywords: Perfidy, IHL, ruse, deceptive lighting, Protocol I, navy

JEL Classification: K14, K33

Suggested Citation

Morris, Matthew G., Hiding Amongst a Crowd and the Illegality of Deceptive Lighting. Naval Law Review, 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=878419 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.878419

Matthew G. Morris (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

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