Proportionality Under International Humanitarian Law (IHL): The ‘Reasonable Military Commander’ Standard and Reverberating Effects
21 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2018 Last revised: 18 Jun 2018
Date Written: January 24, 2018
The principle of proportionality protects civilians and civilian objects against expected incidental harm from an attack that is excessive to the military advantage anticipated from the attack. However, despite its status as a fundamental norm of IHL, key terms are not defined in relevant treaties nor benefit from critical judicial explanation. This has caused challenges for both academics and military commanders alike in explaining and applying the test for proportionality.
The article expands upon two points that were raised and generated interesting discussion at The Second Israel Defense Forces International Conference on the Law of Armed Conflict during a panel that dealt with contemporary issues in proportionality. Those two issues are: a. What does the “reasonable military commander” standard for assessing proportionality entail? b. Should “reverberating effects” (i.e., collateral effects that are only expected to materialize in the long term) be accounted for as part of the assessment of collateral damage?
Keywords: International Armed Conflict, Law of Armed Conflict, LOAC, International Humanitarian Law, IHL, Targeting, Proportionality, Precautions in Attack, Reasonable Military Commander, Reverberating Effects, Indirect Effects, Collateral Damage
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