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March 10, 2016

Hostile Intent and Civilian Protection: Lessons From Recent Conflicts

Posted by Bonnie Docherty

This post originally appeared in Just Security

Is a driver speeding toward a military checkpoint launching a suicide attack or racing his pregnant wife to the hospital? Is a local man digging on a roadside at night planting an improvised explosive device (IED) or working his farm when the temperature is cooler? Is a resident who jumps up when troops burst into his home at 2am reaching for a gun or reacting in fear? In Afghanistan and Iraq, US troops have had to answer such questions repeatedly, often in split-second time. Civilian and military lives have depended on the accuracy of their determinations.

Under the US Standing Rules of Engagement (SROE), troops are allowed to fire in self-defense if they encounter someone demonstrating hostile intent, i.e., the “threat of imminent use of force.” Identifying such a threat presents challenges, however, especially when enemy forces blend in with the local population. Mistaken determinations of hostile intent were a major cause of civilian casualties attributable to the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2014. Tackling Tough Calls, a new report by the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, examines this problem. Drawing on interviews with combat veterans and current servicemembers as well as open source research, it shows how the US military could better protect civilians from such errors without jeopardizing the lives of its troops.

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March 8, 2016

TOMORROW, March 9: “Inside the UN International Law Commission: Toward a Convention on Crimes against Humanity”

March 09, 2016

“Inside the UN International Law Commission: Toward a Convention on Crimes against Humanity”

A talk by Sean D. Murphy

Patricia Robert Harris Research Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School

12:00 p.m.

WCC 3007

What are states’ responsibilities to act in the face of the many crimes against humanity that do not receive the attention of the International Criminal Court?  Please join us for a talk by Sean D. Murphy, Patricia Roberts Harris Research Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School, Member of the UN International Law Commission, and the Commission’s Special Rapporteur for Crimes against Humanity. Prof. Murphy will discuss the issues arising in the Commission’s effort to draft a treaty clarifying the duties of states to investigate, prosecute and punish crimes against humanity.

This talk is being co-sponsored by the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict. 


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