Towards a Synthesis Between Islamic and Western Jus in Bello

Jacob Turner

Harvard University; University of Oxford

May 10, 2011

Florida State University Journal of Transnational Law & Policy, Vol. 21

In the body of international humanitarian law (‘IHL’), there is a lacuna regarding the status of combatants engaged in asymmetric warfare. This has arisen, at least in part, out of a failure to establish a satisfactory distinction between civilians and combatants reflecting the nature of such conflicts and commanding the respect of parties to them.

The recent killing of Osama Bin Laden by US Special Forces Operatives has provided publicity to the debates regarding the legal status of irregular combatants. Some have claimed that Bin Laden ought to have been captured alive and tried in a court. The US administration has argued that Bin Laden’s killing was justified as part of an ongoing war. At least some of the legal and moral uncertainty surrounding Bin Laden’s death, as well as the status of many other such belligerents, stems from a lack of clarity in IHL.

It is imperative that new provisions of IHL be developed to accommodate the dynamics of modern warfare. In order that these may attain the requisite level of peremptory force to bind both state and non-state actors, a new element of legitimacy must also be secured.

This paper suggests that this gap in IHL be solved by recourse to a combination or synthesis of norms of Islamic with traditional sources of Western law. Perhaps contrary to popular belief, many of the tactics commonly employed by modern terrorists are contrary to Islamic law. Given that the participants in much modern warfare operate on a religious, rather than a nationally-motivated ideological agenda, it seems fitting that this apparent Clash of Civilisations be moderated by a solution which draws on the legal doctrines of both groups, rather than just traditional Western Just War theory.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 43

Keywords: jus in bello, Just War, International Humanitarian Law, Islam, Clash of Civilisations, Bin Laden, Hague Regulations, Additional Protocol, Geneva Conventions, Civilian, Combatant, Irregular Combatant, Asymmetric Warfare, Principle of Distinction, Perfidy, Treachery

Open PDF in Browser Download This Paper

Date posted: May 12, 2011 ; Last revised: February 11, 2012

Suggested Citation

Turner, Jacob, Towards a Synthesis Between Islamic and Western Jus in Bello (May 10, 2011). Florida State University Journal of Transnational Law & Policy, Vol. 21. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1837902 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1837902

Contact Information

Jacob Turner (Contact Author)
Harvard University ( email )
1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
University of Oxford ( email )
Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom
Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 890
Downloads: 193
Download Rank: 119,108