Exploring and Explaining Participation in War Crimes

  • Christi Siver


This chapter begins by noting the legal recognition of the concept of war crimes and crimes against humanity, particularly prohibiting targeted attacks against civilians. It then examines efforts to explain compliance with war crimes norms at the state and individual levels. However, these broader theories fail to recognize the empirical variation present within most cases: some units commit war crimes while others do not. Instead, the author argues that organizational level explanations may provide more nuanced tools to understand this variation. Examining socialization efforts, including training programs and enforcement, evaluates the development of a military’s efforts to comply with these laws of war. Investigating the evolution of unit subcultures and the role of unit leadership provides insight on how the unit internalizes the broader organization’s efforts. This mid-level approach offers greater opportunity to understand differences between units and their compliance with civilian protection norms.


War crimes Civilian protection Socialization Subculture Leadership 


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christi Siver
    • 1
  1. 1.Political Science DepartmentCollege of Saint BenedictCollegevilleUSA

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