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The Immunity of Civilians –

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A Moral and Legal Study of Attacks on the Civilian Population

image of Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies

The paper purports to consider the question of whether it is conceivable that a people, who have been occupied and whose rights have been severely violated for several decades, may legitimately target civilians as a last resort. Looking at terrorist attacks, inter alia suicide attacks, in the Palestinian- Israeli conflict, this paper scrutinizes philosophical and legal attempts to justify the deliberate killing of civilians in order to compel the opponent into changing his politics.The paper draws a simplified picture of the historical developments in the region and does not provide an exhausting analysis of the situation but rather highlights single events in order to examine the legal framework against the background of the conflict. It intends to raise rather than answer questions and aims at making a contribution to this complex discussion.Looking at several philosophical justifications of terrorism, the paper then turns to the issues of self-determination, necessity and self-defence. As expected, the discussion reinforces the prohibition to target civilians as one of the fundamental principles of humanitarian law. However, very interesting aspects come into view when investigating the limits of philosophical theories and legal standards regarding the question of last resort.

Affiliations: 1: B.Sc. Human Rights, University of Roehampton, uk and LL.M Law, University of Waikato, New Zealand,


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