Military targeting in the context of self-defence actions
James A. Green, Christopher P. M. Waters
Host item entries:
Nordic journal of international law, Vol. 84, issue 1, p. 3-28
For self-defence actions to be lawful, they must be directed at military targets. The absolute prohibition on non-military targeting under the jus in bello is well known, but the jus ad bellum also limits the target selection of states conducting defensive operations. Restrictions on targeting form a key aspect of the customary international law criteria of necessity and proportionality. In most situations, the jus in bello will be the starting point for the definition of a military targeting rule. Yet it has been argued that there may be circumstances when the jus ad bellum and the jus in bello do not temporally or substantively overlap in situations of self-defence. In order to address any possible gaps in civilian protection, and to bring conceptual clarity to one particular dimension of the relationship between the two regimes, this article explores the independent sources of a military targeting rule. The aim is not to displace the jus in bello as the ‘lead’ regime on how targeting decisions must be made, or to undermine the traditional separation between the two ‘war law’ regimes. Rather, conceptual light is shed on a sometimes assumed but generally neglected dimension of the jus ad bellum’s necessity and proportionality criteria that may, in limited circumstances, have significance for our understanding of human protection during war.
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