Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Alexander Orakhelashvili
Chapter 11: The status of armed forces in public international law: jurisdiction and immunity
States have sent their armed forces into the territory of other states since the dawn of modern international law. Throughout much of this period, national forces have ventured abroad primarily in order to fight wars, occupy territory or transit through another country. However, during the course of the twentieth century, the nature of foreign deployments has changed dramatically. With the onset of the Cold War, states for the first time stationed large numbers of troops on foreign territory on a semi-permanent basis in times of peace. Peace-keeping emerged as a key instrument of collective security, together with the growing involvement of international organizations in military operations. The responsibilities of national forces have become more diverse. In addition to engaging in combat operations, the armed forces of many nations now regularly operate outside the traditional battlefield to pursue a broad variety of other missions, ranging from disaster relief to re-establishing the rule of law. The mobility of the military has increased too, enabling states to deploy their troops into distant lands at short notice. In the wake of these strategic developments, foreign military deployments have now become a common feature of contemporary international relations. The presence of foreign troops in the territory of another state raises a range of legal questions. Foremost amongst these are questions of status: what jurisdictional privileges and immunities from local jurisdiction do foreign forces enjoy in another state? International law does not provide a straightforward answer to this question.
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