Invisible Injuries: Concussive Effects and International Humanitarian Law

9 Harvard National Security Journal 72 (2018)

28 Pages Posted: 31 May 2018

See all articles by Michael N. Schmitt

Michael N. Schmitt

Naval War College - Stockton Center for the Study of International Law; University of Exeter Law School; Lieber Institute, USMA at West Point

Chad Highfill

Government of the United States of America - Stockton Center for the Study of International Law

Date Written: January 17, 2018

Abstract

The concussive effects of weapons used on the modern battlefield can cause Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Indeed, TBI has been termed the "signature wound" of the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. To date, the injury has not been taken into account by armed forces in their application of international humanitarian law norms regarding attacks that affect civilians. Of particular note in this regard are the rule of proportionality and the requirement to take precautions in attack. This article opens the discussion about this recently discovered consequence of warfare for the civilian population. It examines the state of the science regarding TBI and queries whether the understanding of such injuries has reached the point at which commanders in the field are obligated to begin considering, as a matter of humanitarian law, the risk of causing TBI to civilians when they attack enemy forces. It concludes with a practical assessment of how they might do so.

Keywords: concussion, injury, humanitarian law, law of armed conflict, proportionality, precautions

Suggested Citation

Schmitt, Michael N. and Highfill, Chad, Invisible Injuries: Concussive Effects and International Humanitarian Law (January 17, 2018). 9 Harvard National Security Journal 72 (2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3180677

Michael N. Schmitt (Contact Author)

Naval War College - Stockton Center for the Study of International Law ( email )

686 Cushing Road
Newport, RI 02841
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.usnwc.edu/Academics/Faculty/Michael-Schmitt.aspx

University of Exeter Law School ( email )

Streatham Court
University of Exeter
Exeter, EX4 4QJ
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://socialsciences.exeter.ac.uk/law/staff/mschmitt/

Lieber Institute, USMA at West Point ( email )

600 Thayer Rd
West Point, NY 10996
United States

Chad Highfill

Government of the United States of America - Stockton Center for the Study of International Law

686 Cushing Road
Newport, RI 02841
United States

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