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The Many Faces of the Term Open City

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Chapter Summary

According to a well known principle of the laws of war, an open town is a locality that a belligerent has declared to be "open", i.e. undefended, and, if the adversary accepts this status, it will not be bombarded. The classical notion of "open city", a city protected against attack and devastation under certain conditions, may perhaps have lost some of its relevance due to the nature of modern warfare but it is not completely out of use. The new uses of the term have not yet attained legal contours: neither the meaning nor the applicable rules have been established with legal precision. Moreover, the term is used with different meanings in different contexts, e.g. with regard to certain cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina (open to the return of ethnic minority refugees) and Jerusalem (probably freedom of access).

Keywords: Bosnia; ethnic minority refugees; Herzegovina; international law; Jerusalem; open city

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