Proportionality in Modern Asymmetrical Armed Conflics

44 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2012

See all articles by Amichai Cohen

Amichai Cohen

Ono Academic College - Faculty of Law; Israel Democracy Institute

Date Written: November 5, 2009


States which face non-state actors in military armed conflict tend to claim that changes to IHL/LOAC are required. This study attempts to show that a proper interpretation of the existing principles of IHL might sometimes provide satisfactory answers to the problems posed by non-state actors.

Its main argument involves the principle of proportionality. This principle is best understood as an administrative or institutional principle intended to be based on the reasonable discretion of the commander in the field. This discretion is not unlimited – it is guided by respect for human life and civilian immunity. It should be reviewed in advance to make sure that the proper questions are asked. It should be reviewed after the actions take place in order that mistakes might save future commanders from similar mistakes.

Keywords: Proportionality, IHL, asymmetrical conflicts, LOAC

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Amichai, Proportionality in Modern Asymmetrical Armed Conflics (November 5, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Amichai Cohen (Contact Author)

Ono Academic College - Faculty of Law ( email )

104 Zahal St.
Kiryat Ono, 55000

Israel Democracy Institute ( email )

4 Pinsker St.

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