Book launch: Honest Errors?

Join us for the book launch on 29. January 2024 at Litteraturhuset in Oslo!

Fotokreditering: US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of John W. Mosenthal. Photograph number: 16806.

In 1948, a US military tribunal in Nuremberg acquitted General Lothar Rendulic of devastating Northern Norway on account of his honest factual error. 75 years later, our anthology critically reappraises the law and facts underlying his trial, the no second-guessing rule in customary international humanitarian law (IHL) that is named after the general himself, and the assessment of modern battlefield decisions.

The book casts major doubts on Rendulic’s claim that he considered the Northern Norway’s total devastation and the forcible evacuation of all of its inhabitants imperatively demanded by military necessity. The analysis of court records reveals how the tribunal at Nuremberg failed to examine relevant facts or explain the Rendulic Rule’s legal origin.

Despite the Hostage Case’s ambiguity, today objective reasonableness forms part of the reasonable commander test under IHL and the mistake of fact defence under international criminal law (ICL) to which the rule has given rise. Modern warfare’s characteristics—human judgment, de-empathetic battlespace, and institutional bias—may make it problematic to deem some errors both honest and reasonable. The Rendulic Rule embodies a firmly established admonition against judging contentious battlefield decisions with hindsight. Nevertheless, it was born of a factually ill-suited case and continues to raise significant legal as well as ethical challenges today.

This book launch is organised by VID in cooperation with the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies/Norwegian Defence University College.


15:30 - 16:00

Light lunch and mingling

16:00 - 16:10


Vice-Dean for Research, Prof. Aleksandra Bartoszko (VID Specialized University)

16:10 - 16:25

Honest Errors in Combat Decision-Making: State of Our Knowledge 75 Years after the Hostage Case

Prof. Nobuo Hayashi (editor, Swedish Defence University)

16:25 - 16:45

Rendulic and the Military Necessity Defence in Hostage: Did He Speak the Truth?

Prof. Sven Holtsmark (Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies/Norwegian Defence University College)

16:45 - 17:00


Sverre Diesen (former Chief of Defence of Norway)

17:00 - 17:20

The Genesis and Significance of the Law of War ‘Rendulic Rule’

Prof. Sean Watts (United States Military Academy at West Point)

17:20 - 17:30


Prof. em. Geir Ulfstein (University of Oslo)

17:30 - 17:40

Reflections on the Rendulic Rule for contemporary warfare

Sverre Diesen

17:40 - 18:00

Q & A

lead by Associate Professor and co-editor Carola Lingaas (VID Specialized University)

The individual organizer is responsible for the event and text, obtaining photo permission, and photo credit. For questions about content, participants, or other details, please contact the organizer directly.

Do you want to rent Nedjma?

This event will take place in Nedjma. Nedjma er en mellomstor sal i Litteraturhusets tredje etasje.

Bilde av salen Nedjma i 3. etasje på Litteraturhuset med tomme stolrader.

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