Protecting civilians in populated areas during the conduct of hostilities after the Gotovina case
Chiara Redaelli and Stuart Casey-Maslen
The war report : armed conflict in 2013
Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2014
Following the 2011 trial judgement convicting Ante Gotovina for ordering, among others, unlawful artillery attacks on on three cities with the purpose of permanently remove the ethnic Serb civilian population, international humanitarian law (IHL) and military experts filed an amicus curiae stating their belief that the Gotovina judgment "has the potential to become the "Tadic of targeting law". While the Appeals Chamber judgment acquitted Gotovina of all charges, its findings merit discussion in detail as they highlight in stark terms the weaknesses of IHL rules governing the conduct of hostilities. Accordingly, it is argued that protecting civilians demands stricter rules than IHL currently offers, particularly in armed conflicts of a non-international character (NIAC) where those participating directly in hostilities are often located close to - if indeed they are not intermingled with - civilians protected as such. Implementation of and respect for existing rules would obviously bring significant relief, but in hugh-intensity NIACs Gotovina lays bare IHL's inadequacies. The rules governing indiscriminate attacks are far more desirable in military terms than they are for the protection of civilians. In this respect, human rights law and law enforcement rules and stadards on use of force would offer far greater protection.