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Weighing Lives in War$
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Jens David Ohlin, Larry May, and Claire Finkelstein

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198796176

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198796176.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 06 December 2021

The Deaths of Combatants

The Deaths of Combatants

Superfluous Injury and Unnecessary Suffering in Contemporary Warfare

(p.111) 4 The Deaths of Combatants
Weighing Lives in War

Michael L Gross

Oxford University Press

Although there are few restrictions on killing combatants, the contemporary law of war bans weapons that cause superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering. Because military necessity and humanitarian norms often conflict, no clear regulations have emerged. Instead, states sometimes ban weapons because they cause horrific wounds. But this determination is subjective and has led the Red Cross to seek objective medical guidelines on unnecessary suffering. A close look shows how it is often difficult to apply these guidelines to new non-lethal technologies, which include electromagnetic, pharmacological, and neurological weapons. These weapons do not cause obvious injury and suffering and may even reduce combatant and civilian injuries. Nevertheless, they can cause intense transient pain or impinge upon human dignity when they undermine cognitive capabilities. Weighing the costs of new technologies against their benefits remains an abiding challenge for humanitarian law.

Keywords:   unnecessary suffering, superfluous injury, non-lethal weapons, human dignity, military ethics

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