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Home Articles posted by Or Bassok

The Defense of ‘Obedience to Superior Orders’ in the Age of Legal Clearance of Military Operations

Published on August 24, 2017        Author: 

A military pilot receives an order to bomb a building in a densely populated city. He is told that the order has received legal “clearance” from military legal advisors. Can the pilot refuse to obey the order without being punished, since he feels that the order is manifestly unlawful? Will the pilot be held criminally responsible if he obeys, and the order is determined, after the bombing, to be manifestly unlawful?

In our brave new world in which many military operations routinely receive legal clearance by military lawyers, these questions have become highly relevant. Last month’s judgment of the Israeli Supreme Court in HCJ 1971/15 Al-Masri v. The Chief Military Advocate General (in Hebrew) offers interesting answers to these questions in an obiter dictum. In the first section of this post, I briefly introduce the legal dilemma at the heart of these questions. Then I present the new Israeli judgment. In the third section, I analyze the obiter dictum and the response offered in it to the legal dilemma. Thereafter I conclude by fleshing out the gist of my criticism on the Al-Masri obiter.   Read the rest of this entry…