Middle East Studies

Human Shields: The Weapon of the Strong

October 28, 2015

Nicola Perugini, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Italian Studies and Middle East Studies, has been published on Just Security.

“In a series of interventions, Adil Ahmad Haque and Charlie Dunlap have debated the Defense Department Law of War Manual’s position on human shields (here, here, andhere). Claiming that the manual does not draw a distinction between voluntary and involuntary human shields, Haque maintains that it ignores the principle of proportionality, thus permitting the killing of defenseless civilians who are used as involuntary shields. Dunlap, however, insists that the manual includes all the necessary precautions for protecting civilians used as shields by enemy combatants, and argues that the adoption of Haque’s approach would actually encourage the enemy to increase the deployment of involuntary human shields. The two scholars clearly disagree on a number of legal issues, and yet they both treat human shielding as an ahistorical phenomenon and therefore fail to address a much more fundamental question: Why does the Law of War Manual suddenly include clauses dealing with human shields? Why in 2015 and not before?”

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