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Joint Symposium: Chatham House Paper on Proportionality in the Conduct of Hostilities

Published on February 4, 2019        Author: 
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This is the final post in our joint symposium arising out of the publication of the Chatham House report, Proportionality in the Conduct of Hostilities: The Incidental Harm Side of the Assessment.

The new research paper published by Chatham House on Proportionality in the Conduct of Hostilities is a rigorous and thoughtful exposition of the civilian side of the notion of proportionality under international humanitarian law (IHL). This brief post focuses on three points that are raised by the paper: first, the way in which certain difficult questions concerning the reach of proportionality considerations are addressed; second, the question of the status of the natural environment; and third, the potential impact of the paper.

The proportionality calculus calls for a comparison of the expected incidental harm to civilians caused by an attack and the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated. Amongst the many difficult questions that arise from this formulation is the reach of the test, e.g. what type of harm is included, psychological or only physical harm? When might harm be considered as having been ‘caused’ by an attack? Does it include so-called ‘reverberating’ harm, manifesting sometime after an attack (as in the case with unexploded cluster sub-munitions)?

The research paper addresses this question of the reach of the proportionality analysis through the dual test of admissibility and weight. This has the significant advantage of offering a more nuanced way of dealing with some of these complicated questions concerning the scope of the proportionality analysis. For example, on the question of reverberating harm, the paper takes the position that ‘the geographic or temporal proximity of the harm to the attack is not determinative’ and should not affect the admissibility of reverberating harm (para 63). Instead, ‘[f]actors such as the passage of time between the attack and the injury, or the number of causal steps between one and the other, may affect the likelihood of the harm occurring and thus the weight to be assigned to it’ (para 64). That reverberating harm, manifesting sometime after an attack rather than at the time of the attack, must be taken into account in assessing proportionality must be right – there is nothing in the Additional Protocol I (API) formulation of the proportionality test that suggests excluding such types of harm. The reference in API is simply to an ‘attack which may be expected to cause incidental’ civilian harm – as the paper states, harm is caused by an attack if, ‘but for’ the attack, the harm would not occur (para 45), regardless of any proximity considerations. Instead, the proximity of expected harm to the attack might be relevant to the weight to be given to that potential harm. Read the rest of this entry…

 

Joint Symposium on Chatham House’s Report on Proportionality: Calibrating the Compass of Proportionality

Published on February 1, 2019        Author: 
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This is the third post in our joint symposium arising out of the publication of the Chatham House report, Proportionality in the Conduct of Hostilities: The Incidental Harm Side of the Assessment, Calibrating the Compass of Proportionality, by Geoff Corn. The full post is available now over on Just Security.

Here’s a taster from Geoff’s post:

Every war results in civilian harm; though always tragic, it is a largely unavoidable result of armed conflict. For those who have not taken up arms or ordered others to do so, the fact that civilians seem to bear the brunt of war surely seems to reveal mankind at its worst. As James R. McDonough wrote in his influential “Platoon Leader: A Memoir of Command in Combat,” “[w]ar gives the appearance of condoning almost everything.” The reality is that rules governing armed conflict have never been more important. As McDonough also wrote,

[M]en must live with their actions for a long time afterward. A leader has to help them understand that there are lines they must not cross. He is their link to normalcy, to order, to humanity. If the leader loses his own sense of propriety or shrinks from his duty, anything will be allowed.

As McDonough so eloquently reminds us, military leaders need rules to manage the violence of war and in so doing protect those caught up in war from the moral abyss of lawless combat. IHL rules that regulate the conduct of hostilities provide these rules – the proverbial compass that enables the warriors to navigate the complex terrain of mortal combat. Like any compass, the more precise the calibration, the more accurate the navigation

Read the rest of Geoff’s post over on Just Security. Read the rest of this entry…

 

Joint Blog Series on International Law and Armed Conflict: Are Sieges Prohibited under Contemporary IHL?

Published on January 30, 2019        Author: 
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Editor’s Note: This post the final post in the joint series hosted by the ICRC Humanitarian Law & Policy BlogEJIL Talk! and Lawfare, and arising out of the 6th Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict held at the European University Institute in Florence in July.

Contemporary armed conflicts in Syria, Yemen or Iraq have seen a resurgence of sieges of cities and other densely populated areas. This ancient—some would say archaic or medieval—method of warfare is expected to be increasingly used in future urban conflicts. The catastrophic humanitarian consequences of recent prolonged sieges—such as in Ghouta (Syria), where civilians are starving because of lack of access to objects indispensable to their survival—have led to widespread condemnations by the international community (see e.g., UN Security Council Resolution 2139 (2014)). The question discussed here is what does international humanitarian law (IHL) say about siege warfare? Is it explicitly ruled out? How might IHL rules and principles constrain siege warfare?

No explicit IHL rules against siege warfare

Sieges are not per se an explicitly prohibited method of warfare under IHL. On the contrary, one could say that IHL implicitly allow sieges by merely mentioning steps to be taken to mitigate their negative effects on civilians and civilian objects (Art 27 1907 Hague Regulations; Art 15 GCI; Art 18 GCII; Art 17 GCIV).

Sieges have been used throughout history and military doctrine usually regards sieges as essential to the effective conduct of hostilities in order to control a defended locality and obtain surrender or otherwise defeat the enemy through isolation. Since sieges are a harsh method of warfare and are based on almost complete isolation of the besieged locality, their use will almost inevitably involve frictions with numerous rules and principles of IHL—at least when the besieged area involves civilian presence.

Numerous constraints on siege warfare

There are a number of IHL prohibitions that may constrain siege warfare. These include the prohibition against terrorizing the civilian population (Art 51(2) API; Art 13(2) APII; CIHL Study, Rule 2), the prohibition of collective punishment (Art 75 API; Art 4 APII; CIHL Study, Rule 103) or the prohibition of human shields (Art. 51(5) API; CIHL Study, Rule 97). The most obvious prohibition that impacts siege warfare, however, is the prohibition of starvation of civilians (Art 54(1) API; Art 14 APII).There is also a question as to whether conduct of hostilities rules, and the principle of proportionality in particular, may serve as an additional constrain on siege warfare Article 51(5)(b) of API CIHL Study, Rule 14). The present blog post will focus on the latter two—the prohibition against starving civilians, purposefully or incidentally, and the principle of proportionality.   Read the rest of this entry…

 

Joint Symposium on Chatham House’s Report on Proportionality: “Proportionality and Doubt”

Published on January 29, 2019        Author: 
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This is the second post in our joint symposium arising out of the publication of the Chatham House report, Proportionality in the Conduct of Hostilities: The Incidental Harm Side of the Assessment, Proportionality and Doubt, by Adil Haque. The full post is available now over on Just Security.

Here’s a snippet from Adil’s post:

The Report underscores the duty of commanders to do everything feasible to verify that proposed attacks will not violate the proportionality rule (see here, here, and here). This duty seems to imply that a commander who tries but fails to verify conformity with the proportionality rule must refrain from attack. Among other things, it would seem to weaken a commander’s incentives to do ‘everything feasible’ if her failure to verify were instead to be rewarded with freedom to attack.

This view also leads to results that are logical rather than unreasonable or absurd. Assume the following scenario:

Attackers verify that a building is a military objective. Attacking the building will almost certainly kill a number of people nearby.

Now consider two variations:

I) Attackers suspect that the people nearby are combatants, but remain in serious doubt. If the people nearby are civilians, then their expected deaths would be excessive in relation the military advantage anticipated.

II) Attackers verify that the persons nearby are civilian. However, their expected deaths would be neither clearly excessive nor clearly non-excessive in relation to the military advantage anticipated.

In variation I, attackers must presume that the people nearby are civilian (under API 50(1)) and therefore refrain from attack. To ignore their serious doubts and attack would seriously risk violating the proportionality rule. What about variation II? On the view we are exploring, attackers must again refrain from attack, for the same reason: to avoid serious risk of violating the proportionality rule

Read the rest of Adil’s post over on Just Security. Read the rest of this entry…

 

Joint Symposium: Chatham House Report on Proportionality in the Conduct of Hostilities – Some Key Elements

Published on January 28, 2019        Author: 
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This is the first post in our joint symposium arising out of the publication of the Chatham House report, Proportionality in the Conduct of Hostilities: The Incidental Harm Side of the Assessment. This piece is cross-posted on Just Security.

At the end of 2018 the International Law Programme at Chatham House published a report analysing the key steps in making assessments about proportionality under international humanitarian law, with a particular focus on incidental harm.  The rule of proportionality as formulated in Article 51 of Additional Protocol I of 1977 (AP I) requires belligerents to refrain from attacks ‘which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated’.

The report addresses three sets of questions: first, the criteria of causation and foreseeability, the weight to be assigned to particular kinds of harm, and how to assess whether the expected incidental harm is excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage; second, the types of incidental harm to be considered in proportionality assessments; and, third, a number of legal questions raised by the implementation of the rule in practice.

After putting the rule of proportionality into context, this blog post presents four of the points that the report seeks to clarify.  These are: the causation of the incidental harm and whether it is foreseeable; ‘knock-on’ or ‘reverberating’ harm; the types of injury to civilians to be considered; and the notion of ‘excessive’ incidental harm. Read the rest of this entry…

 

Introducing Joint Symposium on Chatham House’s “Proportionality in the Conduct of Hostilities” Report

Published on January 28, 2019        Author: 
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Editor note: This piece is cross-posted on Just Security.

In December 2018, the International Law Programme at Chatham House published a report, “Proportionality in the Conduct of Hostilities: The Incidental Harm Side of the Assessment,” analysing the key steps in making assessments about proportionality under international humanitarian law, with a particular focus on expected incidental harm to civilians and civilian objects.   

Chatham House prepared the report following a series of expert consultations, including participation from military and government lawyers, representatives of humanitarian organizations, and academics.  It also draws from review of IHL treaty texts, case law, and, to the extent practicable, military doctrine.

The report addresses three sets of questions about the rule of proportionality:  First, the report examines what it means for the harm to be caused by the attack and the concept of foreseeability of harm, the weight to be assigned to particular kinds of harm, and how to assess whether the expected incidental harm to civilians and civilian objects is excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage.  Second, it analyses types of incidental harm to be considered in proportionality assessments.  Third, it explores vexing legal issues that arise in implementation of the rule in practice (such as the type of information commanders should assess in “after attack” battle damage assessments).

In collaboration with Chatham House, EJIL:Talk! and Just Security have invited leading international humanitarian law experts to contribute to a joint online symposium on key issues addressed in the report. Starting this afternoon, we will host the following series:

(1) Emanuela Gillard, Chatham House Report on Proportionality in the Conduct of Hostilities – Some Key Elements (EJIL: Talk! and Just Security)

(2) Adil Haque, Proportionality and Doubt (Just Security)

(3) Lawrence Hill-Cawthorne, The Chatham House Paper on Proportionality in the Conduct of Hostilities (EJIL: Talk!)

(4) Geoff Corn, Calibrating the Compass of Proportionality (Just Security)

 

 

Understanding the Use of Zones and the Concept of Proportionality: Enduring Lessons from the Falklands War

Published on December 13, 2017        Author: 
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On 2 April 1982 Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands (alternatively, the Islas Malvinas). The resulting conflict lasted 74 days and claimed the lives of 255 UK military personnel and 652 Argentine servicemen. The conflict raises a myriad of legal issues but at its core is the issue of sovereignty (here). However complicated the issue, disputes over sovereignty did not legally authorise the Argentine invasion (see UNSCR). This post will not go over the vexed issue of sovereignty but will instead focus on two select issues relating to the conduct of hostilities. The Falklands War has largely receded from thought but lingering doubts over the legality of a Total Exclusion Zone (TEZ) established by the UK and its torpedoing of the Belgrano endure. By focusing on the issue of zones and the concept of proportionality this post will seek to provide clarity to two often misunderstood areas of law that are of vital importance to contemporary military operations.

The UK Total Exclusion Zone

A few days after the Argentinian invasion the UK issued a notice indicating that, from 12 April 1982, a Maritime Exclusion Zone (MEZ) would be in force, extending 200 nautical miles from the centre of the Falklands. On 28 April, the UK declared a TEZ that encompassed the same geographical area as the MEZ but was broader in scope regarding ratione personae.  In essence, the TEZ stated that any ship or aircraft entering the TEZ that was not authorised to be there by the UK Ministry of Defence was deemed to be operating in support of the occupation, regarded as hostile, and therefore liable to attack. Read the rest of this entry…

 

Joint Blog Series on International Law and Armed Conflict: Jann Kleffner on ‘Wounded and Sick and the Proportionality Assessment’

Published on October 13, 2017        Author: 
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The final installment of our joint blog series arising from the 2017 Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict, ‘Wounded and Sick and the Proportionality Assessment’- by Jann Kleffner (Swedish Defence University) is now available on Intercross

Here’s a taster of Jann’s post:

For all wounded and sick other than civilian ones, the question looms large how that obligation to respect and protect in all circumstances can be squared with the absence of such persons from the collateral damage side of the proportionality equation. The following possibilities present themselves.

Option 1The obligation to respect and protect such wounded and sick in all circumstances could be interpreted to mean that any incidental harm to them falls foul of the obligation and hence constitutes a violation of the law of armed conflict.

[…]

Option 2: The right of parties to an armed conflict to attack lawful targets could be understood to supersede the obligation to respect and protect the wounded and sick other than civilian ones.

[…]

Option 3The obligation to respect and protect could be interpreted to require a proportionality assessment in which incidental harm to wounded and sick other than civilian ones is legally assimilated to harm to civilians.

Read the rest of the post over on Intercross.

 

Thanks to all who participated in this joint blog series. Special thanks to post authors, readers and commentators, and to our partners over at Intercross and Lawfare. 

 

 
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Joint Blog Series on International Law and Armed Conflict: Geoff Corn on Wounded and Sick, Proportionality, and Armaments

Published on October 11, 2017        Author: 
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The fourth post in our joint blog series arising from the 2017 Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict, ‘Wounded and Sick, Proportionality, and Armaments’- by Geoffrey Corn (South Texas College of Law Houston) is now available on Lawfare.

Here’s an excerpt: 

Imagine you are commanding forces that have just repulsed a combined arms enemy ground attack. The enemy is now withdrawing, and you observe what are obviously wounded enemy soldiers being loaded onto enemy combat vehicles. You fully anticipate the enemy to regroup in order to continue the offensive. These vehicles are not protected because they are not properly marked nor exclusively engaged in the collection and evacuation of the wounded and sick. Instead, the enemy is employing the common practice of evacuating wounded with any available combat vehicle. While this is occurring, other enemy forces are providing covering fires in support of the withdrawal. You have on-call close air support assets, and your air support coordination liaison asks if the enemy vehicles should be attacked? The enemy vehicles are lawful objects of the attack, but you know that the military wounded and sick must be respected and protected. It is therefore clear that an attack may not be directed against the wounded enemy soldiers. But the ICRC’s updated Commentary asserts that before launching the attack on the withdrawing enemy forces who are not hors de combat you must assess whether the risk created to the wounded enemy personnel is excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

[…]

Suggesting that such an obligation is logically inferred from the civilian proportionality rule is fundamentally flawed, because unlike military personnel, civilians (who do not take a direct part in hostilities) do not accept the risks of combat. 

Read the rest of this entry…

 

Joint Series on International Law and Armed Conflict: Janina Dill on Assessing Proportionality

Published on October 11, 2016        Author: 
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The final installment of our joint blog series arising out of the 2016 Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict, ‘Assessing Proportionality: An Unreasonable Demand on the Reasonable Commander?’- by Janina Dill (London School of Economics) is now available on Intercross.

Here’s a snippet:

jdill-182Proportionality in International Humanitarian Law (IHL) demands that the attacker weighs incommensurate values: the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated to arise from an attack against the expected incidental harm to civilians and damage to civilian objects. It is common place that for that reason (amongst others) it is difficult to applyArticle 51(5)b of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions and the corresponding principle of customary law to real world cases (here, here, here, here, here). The legal rule seemingly bends to endorse diametrically opposed interpretations of the same attacks; salient examples include some Israeli air strikes in the 2014 campaign in Gaza (hereand here). References to proportionality in the court of public opinion therefore often fan the flames of discord rather than adjudicate between diverging views. In the court of law, specifically in the chambers of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, proportionality has largely failed to add to the justiciability of unlawful attacks.

At the same time, proportionality – and indeed the task of comparing seemingly incommensurate values – are not unusual in law. What then is the problem with the principle of proportionality in IHL?

Proportionality according to the reasonable observer

A common approach to assessing an agent’s judgment of excessiveness is to look at it from the point of view of a “reasonable observer”. However, an empirical investigation of attitudes towards collateral damage yields anything but a concretization of what proportionate incidental harm looks like. When asked to put themselves in the place of a commander partaking in a mission to clear an Afghan village of Taliban fighters, 27% of British respondents and 20% of American participants in a survey I conducted in 2015 said they would not accept any foreseen civilian deaths as a side-effect of an attack meant to kill a group of Taliban fighters. At the same time, 17% of British and 21% of American respondents said they would accept however many casualties the attack would cause. 44% and 41% of the populations respectively hence rejected the very premise of proportionality in war: the prospect of a military advantage warrants a positive, but limited number of unintended, yet foreseen civilian casualties.

Read the full post over on Intercross. 

 
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