© 2016

Killing on Command

The Defence of Superior Orders in Modern Combat


Part of the Critical Criminological Perspectives book series (CCRP)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-ix
  2. Carmel O’Sullivan
    Pages 1-14
  3. Carmel O’Sullivan
    Pages 15-41
  4. Carmel O’Sullivan
    Pages 43-74
  5. Carmel O’Sullivan
    Pages 119-163
  6. Carmel O’Sullivan
    Pages 215-220
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 221-226

About this book


This book explores the unique social and environmental factors which influence soldiers to commit war crimes. With a focus on decision-making processes, this monograph provides a significant interdisciplinary analysis of how soldiers decide to follow the commands of their superior officers, even if that means acting illegally. Making the key distinction between normal civilian society and the shocking realities of war, the author facilitates the reader with a comprehensive understanding of what a front-line soldier faces in contemporary combat situations. 

Killing on Command presents the limits of the law in preventing the occurrence of war crimes. Realistic and practical measures for armed conflict, including the regulation and prevention of violence, and the just implementation of legal standards are all questioned and examined in depth. Given a current focus on the regulation of conduct in war, and the recent prosecution of soldiers, this book will be of particular interest to scholars in the fields of criminology and international relations, as well as policy-makers.


criminology critical criminology army military sociology international relations war manifestly unlawful reasonable soldier environmental factors of war social production of war crimes modern warfare military culture criminal law military training

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Queensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia

About the authors

Carmel O'Sullivan is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the Queensland University of Technology, Australia. She specialises in the fields of Criminology of War, International Criminal Law and International Humanitarian Law. Her primary area of research focuses on the individual’s responsibility in contemporary combat and whether the law is reflective of modern warfare.

Bibliographic information


“The book makes a valuable contribution to the extant scholarly literature in that it provides a critical assessment of the overall role of the state in the occurrence of war crimes. … provides a framework by which to examine how to prevent or curtail the commission of these crimes in the first place. For all of these reasons, many will find reading this book both thought-provoking and worthwhile.” (Richard Ehui, Medicine, Conflict and Survival, Vol. 32 (4), February, 2017)