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Targeted Killing in International Law$
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Nils Melzer

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199533169

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199533169.001.0001

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The Principle of Distinction under International Humanitarian Law

The Principle of Distinction under International Humanitarian Law

Chapter:
(p.300) XI The Principle of Distinction under International Humanitarian Law
Source:
Targeted Killing in International Law
Author(s):

Nils Melzer

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199533169.003.0011

This chapter examines the principle of distinction in contemporary International Humanitarian Law (IHL). As a general rule, the principle of distinction permits direct attacks only against the armed forces of the parties to the conflict, while the peaceful civilian population must be spared and protected against the effects of the hostilities. This chapter first distinguishes and defines the notions of civilian, member of the armed forces and combatant under the law governing both in international and non-international armed conflict, clarifies when civilians can be regarded as directly participating in hostilities entailing loss of protection against direct attack, and also examines various aspects of the duty to avoid "collateral damage", which is inherent in the principle of distinction.

Keywords:   principle of distinction, armed forces, combatant, civilian, armed conflict, hostilities, direct participation in hostilities, proportionality in attack, precaution in attack, organized armed group

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