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“On target”: precision and balance in the contemporary law of targeting

Schmitt, M. N. ORCID: and Widmar, E. (2014) “On target”: precision and balance in the contemporary law of targeting. Journal of National Security Law and Policy, 7 (3). pp. 379-409.

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The law of targeting lies at the heart of international humanitarian law (IHL). As such it is the fulcrum around which discussion of combat operations revolves. The efficacy of this body of law depends on maintenance of the delicate balance between military necessity and humanitarian concerns. Mischaracterization or misapplication of IHL norms risks imbalance, thereby jeopardizing the innocent and potentially eroding State support for IHL’s application. Regrettably, while some of the current debate and commentary surrounding, inter alia, drone operations, autonomous weapons systems, cyber operations, and the current conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Ukraine, to name just a few, is highly sophisticated, much of it has been characterized by imprecise, skewed, or wrong assertions regarding the law of targeting. It is therefore a propitious moment to revisit the structure and content of targeting law. After briefly placing the law of targeting in the broader context of IHL, this article examines the five constituent elements of a targeting operation: (1) target; (2) weapon; (3) execution of the attack; (4) collateral damage and incidental injury; and (5) location. The legality of an engagement depends on full compliance with the rules falling into each category.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:No Reading authors. Back catalogue items
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Law
ID Code:89853
Publisher:Syracuse University Institute for Security Policy and Law & Georgetown Law


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