:"Not to be confused with a reprise."In warfare, a reprisal is a limited and deliberate violation of the laws of war to punish an enemy for breaking the laws of war. A legally executed reprisal is not an .

To be legally justified, a reprisal can only be directed against the party carrying out the original violation, can only be carried out as a last resort, after having given formal notice of the planned reprisal, must be proportionate to the original violation, must have the aim of persuading the original violator to comply with the legally accepted behavior in future, and must not continue after the illegal behavior ends.

Circumstances usually dictate that reprisals can only be taken against people guilty of the original violation. However, there is always a probability that the reprisals will themselves be viewed as hostile acts, risking a vicious circle of violations by both sides.

All four Geneva Conventions prohibit reprisals against, respectively, battlefield casualties, shipwreck survivors, prisoners of war and civilians, as well as certain buildings and property. An additional 1977 protocol extends this to cover historic monuments, works of art and places of worship.

In the United States military, the lowest ranked commander who can authorize a reprisal is a general in command of a theater.


The word came from French, where it originally meant "act of taking back", for example, raiding back the equivalent of cattle lost to an enemy raid.

ee also

*The related concept of Letter of marque (license to hunt enemy ships and retake lost ships from the enemy).
*Collective punishment
**Laws of war

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  • reprisal — re·pri·sal /ri prī zəl/ n [Anglo French reprisaile reprisaille, from Middle French, from Old Italian ripresaglia, from ripreso, past participle of riprendere to take back, from ri back + prendere to take, from Latin prehendere] 1 a: the act or… …   Law dictionary

  • Reprisal — Re*pris al (r? priz al), n. [F. repr?saille, It. ripresaglia, rappresaglia, LL. reprensaliae, fr. L. reprehendere, reprehensum. See {Reprehend}, {Reprise}.] 1. The act of taking from an enemy by way of reteliation or indemnity. [1913 Webster]… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • reprisal — early 15c., seizing property or citizens of another nation in retaliation for loss inflicted on one s own, from Anglo Fr. reprisaille (mid 14c.), from O.Fr. reprisaille, from early It. ripresaglia, from ripreso, pp. of riprendere take back, from… …   Etymology dictionary

  • reprisal — *retaliation, retribution, revenge, vengeance …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • reprisal — [n] revenge avengement, avenging, counterblow, counterstroke, eye for an eye*, paying back, requital, retaliation, retribution, vengeance; concept 384 Ant. kindness, sympathy …   New thesaurus

  • reprisal — ► NOUN 1) an act of retaliation. 2) historical the forcible seizure of a foreign subject or their goods as an act of retaliation. ORIGIN Old French reprisaille, from Latin reprehendere seize, check, rebuke …   English terms dictionary

  • reprisal — [ri prī′zəl] n. [ME reprisail < MFr reprisaille < It rappresaglia < riprendere, to take back < L reprehendere: see REPREHEND] 1. Historical the forcible seizure of property or subjects in retaliation for an injury inflicted by another …   English World dictionary

  • reprisal — n. 1) to carry out reprisals 2) a harsh reprisal 3) a reprisal against, on 4) in reprisal for 5) (misc.) by way of reprisal * * * [rɪ praɪz(ə)l] on (misc.) by way of reprisal a harsh reprisal a reprisal against in reprisal for …   Combinatory dictionary

  • reprisal — noun ADJECTIVE ▪ bloody, brutal, savage, violent ▪ military ▪ The government responded with harsh military reprisals. ▪ economic …   Collocations dictionary

  • reprisal — UK [rɪˈpraɪz(ə)l] / US noun [countable/uncountable, often plural] Word forms reprisal : singular reprisal plural reprisals something unpleasant that is done to punish an enemy or opponent because of something bad that they have done to you… …   English dictionary

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