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Yitzhak Benbaji (Tel Aviv University) & Susanne Burri (LSE): “Civilian Immunity without the Doctrine of Double Effect”

15 March 2017, 5:30 pm7:00 pm

Abstract: Civilian Immunity (“Immunity”) is the legal protection that civilians enjoy against the effects of hostilities under the laws of armed conflict. On the one hand, Immunity involves an absolute prohibition against directly targeting civilians. On the other hand, it states stringent conditions for the permissibility of harming civilians incidentally. Immunity thus distinguishes between two different ways of inflicting harm on civilians, and rules one of them out categorically. As it is usually understood, the distinction that Immunity draws is based on the moral principle known as the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE). The DDE is a non-welfarist principle: its rationale allows us to judge differentially cases where the harm that will come to specific individuals is held constant.

Justifying the non-welfarist distinction that the DDE draws is a difficult task. In our paper, we do not try to assess in any detail just how difficult a task it is, or how successfully it has been dealt with in the literature. Instead, our primary aim is to show that under conditions that can typically be found in war, welfarist considerations support the seemingly non-welfarist distinction that Immunity draws. We will argue that the prohibitive stance towards targeting civilians directly, and the permissive stance towards killing them incidentally, can be defended without the DDE.

Yitzhak Benbaji is a professor of philosophy at Tel-Aviv University’s Law Faculty.

Susanne Burri is Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, LSE.




15 March 2017
5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
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