President’s Message

“Dear Members and friends of Euro-ISME,

Only a short time ago ‘going to war’ would usually have meant the formal declaration of a state of hostilities between States, followed by uniformed forces fighting each other on identifiable battlefields. Although many of these wars were awful in their brutality, they took place within a broadly accepted framework. Such relative certainty is now often absent, with conflicts frequently fought between regular and irregular forces, the latter often having scant knowledge of and little regard for the laws of armed conflict and humanitarian law. A battlefield can now be a physical or a virtual space and civilian populations can find themselves caught up in the horrors of war as conflicts are fought ‘amongst the people’.

As a result, it is now almost a cliché to say that the nature of conflict is changing and becoming more complex. But within this ever changing landscape, two groups of people must still wrestle with a series of ethical and legal realities; first in deciding whether to ‘go to war’, then how the war should be fought and finally how we should ensure that an equitable and lasting peace is the result.

In most developed countries, the decision on whether to go to war is not one for the military, but for elected politicians. They are the people who can escalate or de-escalate tense situations before military forces become irrevocably engaged. It is politicians who set the ground rules for the war and who decide what resources will be made available to fight it. It is they who will declare victory or accept defeat when the time comes. Advisors will counsel them on the legality of the choices open to them, but the decision on whether to commit to armed conflict often has a significant ethical component.

Once war begins, the ethical complexity for the military increases exponentially. Laws divide the universe into 2 spheres, the legal and the illegal. But in war circumstances arise in the field where such clarity is simply not a realistic option. Not every situation that arises can be foreseen and the answer helpfully noted in a training manual to be memorised for use later. That is why our military forces need people who are trained in how to think, and not simply in what to think. We expect the (often) young men and women who fight on our behalf to display substantial ethical maturity beyond their years, often at times when they are cold, hungry and frightened for their lives. It is a tribute to them and their commanders that they succeed in this far more often than they fail.

Euro-ISME exists to promote the study, training and practice of military ethics. It encourages professionals in all parts of the military and academic spheres to engage in robust and constructive dialogue with each other. It invites politicians to listen to the fruits of our debates and to participate in them. We do this because it is essential for the health of our societies and for the wider world that our armed forces behave to the highest ethical standards, so that they can clearly differentiate themselves from rag tag militias, mercenaries and terrorists. It is also essential in order to ensure that those who are the innocent victims of war can look to our armed forces as protectors, not persecutors, and as the representatives of societies which value justice and peace above mindless aggression.

The education and training of all those involved in armed conflict is not an easy task. But it is an essential one and one to which we are committed.
I hope that you will join us by participating in this ongoing challenge, by attending our conferences or by joining our growing network of committed people. We ask the members of our armed forces to be prepared to sacrifice their own lives and we authorise them to take the lives of others, where this is within the laws of armed conflict. We owe it to them, their families and to the societies in which we live to ensure that they are properly equipped to undertake their challenging tasks in line with the very highest ethical standards.

Sincerely yours
John Thomas

Air Commodore (ret.) John Thomas, President of Euro-ISME

Our aims

The International Society for Military Ethics (ISME) is the first organisation of scientists, academic professors and military practitioners engaged in research as well as in education and training in the field of professional military ethics. For years simply an informal meeting of interested parties, in 2005 ISME incorporated as a non-profit organisation in the United States.

In 2011, some European members and interested institutions decided to create a new chapter of ISME, based in Europe, in order to better focus their work on the specific European approach to the analysis, development and promotion of best practice throughout the armed forces of the members of the European defence community.

The Inaugural Conference on “Ethics and Alliances” was held at the Ecole Militaire in Paris on the 16th and 17th of June 2011. In January 2012, the new “Euro-ISME” was registered as a non-profit organisation under French law (association loi 1901).

Since than, Euro-ISME has annually organised “International Conferences” which are now widely recognised as a forum attracting experts from all over the world. The meetings are regularly hosted by renown insitutions having an important impact on European security and defence policy like the UK Defence Academy in Shrivenham (2012), the Royal Netherlands Navy Event Centre in Amsterdam (2013), the German Armed Forces Leadership Training Centre in Koblenz (2014), the Military Academy of the Serbian Armed Forces in Belgrade (2015), the Defence College of the Norwegian Armed Forces in Oslo (2016), the Belgian Royal Military Academy in Brussels (2017), the Infantry Academy of the Spanish Army in Toledo (2018), and the Austrian Defense Academy in Vienna (2019)

The 10th Annual Meeting 2020 is already under preparation: it will be held from May 17 to 20 in the Conference Centre of the Federal Ministry of Defense in BERLIN and will deal with issues of “War in the Cities”.

The Euro-ISME association particularly aims to :

  • establish a European forum for discussion and exchange of ideas on professional responsibility and military ethics;
  • promote comprehensive and systematic analysis in the field of military ethics and of the law of armed conflict in accordance with the principles of human rights;
  • initiate research on the ethical traditions in Europe and worldwide as well as on behavioural norms that guide and limit the conduct of military;
  • enhance the quality of ethics education in European armed forces and the armed forces of partner countries who require advice;
  • support educational institutions and military command in analysis and topical studies on the behaviour in the operations and their impact on military ethics;
  • promote the harmonization of ethical principles and standards of conduct in relation to the creation of a shared culture of responsibility and ethical thinking;
  • disclose knowledge about this culture to other continents via a global network of regional Societies for Military Ethics.

The Board of Directors

Being the general directing body of the association, the Board sets the main direction for the activities of the association and gives guidance to its daily management.
The BoD – as elected on 22.05.2019 – is composed of the following members :

President :
Air Commodore (retd.) John Thomas, United Kingdom
1st Vice-President :
Prof. Dr. Thomas R. Elßner, Deutschland
2nd Vice-President :
Prof. Dr. David Whetham, UK
Executive Directors :
Dr. Ted van Baarda, Netherlands, and
LtCol (Res.) Dr. Daniel Beaudoin, Israel
Treasurer :
Dr. Magdalena Revue, France
Members of the Board : 
Prof. Dr. Jovan Babić, Serbia 
Captain Michaël Dewyn, Belgium 
Dr. Paul Ertl, Austria
Col (ret.) Prof. Dr. Boris Kashnikov, Russia
Dr. Daniel Messelken, Allemagne/Suisse
Dr. Leif Tore Michelsen, Norvège
Dr. Patrick Mileham, UK
Dr. Lonneke Peperkamp, Netherlands
Colonel (er) Manfred Rosenberger, Germany

EuroISME board of directors cloud

The Statutes

The International Society for Military Ethics is established for an unlimited period of time and is actually governed by French law of 1 July 1901 and Decree of 16 August 1901.
The Board of Directors following approval by the General Assembly may decide to convert the association’s status into a European association once this status will be created/established.
The association was founded at the Research Center of the Military Academy Saint-Cyr – Coëtquidan in F-56380 GUER, France.
The registered office of the Association is actually located at the following address: 2, Rue Poisson, at 44100 Nantes, France.
The seat of the association may be transferred to another place on a decision of the board of directors.
The society is a non-governmental politically independent non-profit organisation. She is guided by the principles of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human rights.
The working languages of the association are English, French and German.
Internal provisons regulate various elements not envisaged by the statutes, particularly those concerning the internal administration of the association.

Complaints commission

EuroISME’s code of conduct and complaints procedure has a complaints commission consisting of the following three persons:

  • Mrs. PD. Dr. Correa-Klaus, Liliane (Italy) – Chair, l.correa.integrity.complaints
  • Mrs. Dr. Ruffo, M.d.N. (Belgium) – mdn.ruffo.integrity.complaints
  • Cdr (N) van Bruggen, J.P. (The Netherlands) – jpv.bruggen.integrity.complaints

Persons who wish to file a complaint concerning an alledged violation of integrity under the terms of the code of conduct, can contact a member of the complaints commission.