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Contemporary Research on Proportionality in Armed Conflicts: A Select Review

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In an attempt to impose limits on the level of acceptable incidental civilian suffering during armed conflict, international humanitarian law (IHL) articulates a proportionality formula as the test to determine whether or not an attack is lawful. Efforts to comply with that formula during the conduct of hostilities can involve a host of legal and operational challenges. These challenges have inspired a growing body of doctrinal and empirical research. A recent international conference in Jerusalem, co-sponsored by the Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Israel and the Occupied Territories and the Minerva Center for Human Rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, brought together human rights lawyers, military experts and scholars from a variety of disciplines to assess recent developments relating to the proportionality principle in international humanitarian law. This report examines ten conference presentations which offer important insights into: the nature, scope of application and operational requirements of the proportionality principle under IHL; the modalities of investigation and review of proportionality decisions; and the challenges involved in proportionality decision-making.

Affiliations: 1: PhD (Melbourne), LLM (Bristol), LLB (Tasmania), Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Notre Dame Australia, International Conference of The Minerva Center for Human Rights, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Israel and the Occupied and Autonomous Territories Delegation, November 21-23 2010.


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