The Ethical War Blog

Expert discussion of the ethics of war, for all.

Expanding the Scope of International Criminal Law

By Stephen Riley

“International Criminal Court, ICC” Roel Wijnants. Used under: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

In the past few weeks we have witnessed the activation of the crime of aggression as a crime triable by the International Criminal Court (ICC). This formal operationalising of the crime takes place against a wider debate in civil society about the extension of the material jurisdiction of the Court. Alongside its existing material jurisdiction it has been argued that the ICC should try activities like crimes against migrants, environmental crimes, cyberwarfare and other criminal activities of international concern. These are all prima facie candidates for criminal liability and they deserve to be taken seriously as international criminal offences. The intention of this discussion is to separate principle from pragmatism in understanding these as international crimes. I argue that three core principles underlie our international criminal institutions: non injusta lex est, basic standards of humanity, and the idea of a jus gentium. These are natural law principles recognised under international law and support at least some further expansion of the scope of international criminal law.

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Not your Father’s Draft: Critiques of Progressive Conscription

By Amanda Cawston

“Regementets Dag 2014” Håkan Dahlström. Used under: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

In March 2017, the Swedish government voted to reinstate compulsory military service, or conscription. After suspending the program in 2010, dwindling recruitment combined with a perceived increase in regional threats to security has led the country to reimpose mandatory service.

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Does Catalonia have a right to secede?

By Amandine Catala

“General strike in Catalonia” Beverly Yuen Thompson. used under: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

The recent Catalan referendum on independence has inevitably raised the question: does Catalonia have a right to secede? This question might be understood as either a legal or a moral question: it might be asking either whether it is legally or whether it is morally permissible for Catalonia to secede. In either case, contrary to what polarized debates may suggest, the answer is neither obviously positive nor obviously negative. Moreover, even if a legal or a moral case for secession can be made, it does not follow that Catalonia should secede. To say that secession is legally or morally permissible is not to advocate secession. Consider the analogy with divorce: to say that divorce is legally or morally permissible is not to prescribe divorce.

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Just and Unjust Coups d’état? Zimbabwe and the Ethics of Military Takeover

By Christopher J Finlay

“Robert Mugabe”, a-birdie. used under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

The phenomenon of ‘coup d’état’ has recently forced itself back into public consciousness. After the ouster of Hosni Mubarak under pressure of the protesters in 2011, Mohamed Morsi’s politically illiberal but democratically elected government was overthrown by the Egyptian military in 2013. By 2014, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi had stepped down as Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian armed forces to run successfully for President. July 2016 saw an unsuccessful coup attempt in Turkey against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by a faction within the military. And in November 2017, Zimbabweans awoke to see a man in military fatigues on the national television station reading out a prepared statement to inform the public that the military had seized control – but denying emphatically that it was engaged in a ‘coup’.

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Degrees of Causal Contribution and the Ethics of War

By Carolina Sartorio

Soldiers of the Somali National Army (SNA), Somalia on April 07, 2015. AMISOM Photo / Sabir Olad.

Conversations on War is an event organised by Helen Frowe (Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace) and Massimo Renzo (King’s College London). The last event was on the theme of Complicity and Causation in War, bringing together experts from metaphysics, moral philosophy and legal philosophy. In this post, Carolina Sartorio (University of Arizona), one of the participants of the last event, presents some problems for the notion of “causal contribution” often appealed in the ethics of war and peace.

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From the classroom to the frontline – schools must be careful what they teach kids about the army

By Jonathan Parry

*reposted from https://theconversation.com/from-the-classroom-to-the-frontline-schools-must-be-careful-what-they-teach-kids-about-the-army-84085*

Dinner time at Harrogate’s army foundation college. Harrogate Army Foundation College Facebook

When you think of child soldiers, it might conjure up images of young children far away, taken from their homes and forced to take part in war and fighting, often held against their will.

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The Bias against Humanitarian Intervention

By Bashshar Haydar

At least half a million people have been killed in Syria over the last six years of conflict.  Thousands have also been imprisoned and tortured to death. It has been described as the biggest humanitarian disaster since WWII, with cities, towns, and villages destroyed, and over 10 million refugees and displaced people inside and outside Syria. The claim that the international community has failed to act morally and responsibly by failing to intervene at an earlier stage in the conflict is gaining more credibility. Many of those who were skeptical of the need or usefulness of humanitarian intervention in Syria are reconsidering their position in light of the carnage, albeit a bit late in the day.

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Peacekeeping and the Possibility of a Revisionist Law of War

By Nicholas Serafin

Just War Theorists have traditionally argued that combatants are moral equals, each permitted to kill their opponent regardless of the justice of their wars.  Recently, this position has been challenged by ‘revisionist’ just war theorists, who hold that only combatants who fight in justified wars are permitted to kill. This view is often thought to be in deep tension with the law of war, and revisionist theorists are divided on the issue of what the legal implications of their view should be. However, in at least one area – the application of the law of war to United Nations Chapter VI peacekeeping operations – international law takes on a revisionist cast.

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Intervention and Revolution

By Fernando Tesón

It is widely held that violent revolution can be justified to end tyranny. It is equally widely held that foreign intervention is not justified to end tyranny. Intervention is justified, if at all, in a much narrower range of cases – perhaps to halt massacre or genocide, but not to end ‘ordinary’ oppression. On this view, state oppression may be sufficient to furnish internal revolutionaries with a just cause for violence, but simultaneously insufficient to generate a just cause for outside parties to do the same. Can this difference be justified?

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Subtle Casualties: Conflict and Intangible Cultural Heritage

By Robert Seddon

On one page of the ICCROM document Protecting Cultural Heritage in Times of Conflict, just below an image of a stone Buddha with the face blasted off, is a photograph of an apparently intact building, with the caption: ‘Intangible heritage affected during the military operations of 2007-2011 [against the Taliban insurgency]: people stopped coming to the Grand Shrine in Saidu Sharif, fearing for their security.’ Examples like this reveal a distinct and under-appreciated way in which war can threaten cultural heritage: the disruption of ways of life, rather than simple material damage.

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