Striking a balance between military force and civilian casualties

20 May 2009

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On 21 May the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict (ELAC) will hold a one day symposium on proportionality and war. Collateral damage to civilians has become a critical issue in many recent conflicts: Israeli operations in Lebanon and Gaza have been heavily criticised for suspected disproportionality, as have recent US drone attacks against Taliban targets in Pakistan. Despite this, and despite the fact that disproportionate attacks are outlawed under the Geneva Conventions, no one has been prosecuted for these actions.

This symposium will establish a working group consisting of senior military personnel, leading academics, NGOs, and international lawyers, creating an informal and open space in which to bring together perspectives from different disciplinary domains. The aim is to foster a wide ranging and mutually beneficial conversation that confronts views from the discipline of moral philosophy, the experience of military personnel as well as that of both academic and practicing lawyers.

Dr. David Rodin, Co-Director of ELAC, said: "Everyone accepts that proportionality is a fundamental legal constraint on military operations. The problem is, no one knows exactly what it means or precisely what it requires. This has led to a situation where different militaries have different interpretations of what is acceptable. Inevitably it is civilians who suffer the consequences".

Attendance at this event is by invitation only. For more information, please contact Jennifer Wilkinson at, or on +44(0)1865 285986.

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