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Nobody is born a legitimate target

A four-step test to the targeting of individuals and groups in armed conflict

Birgit Haslinger

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Birgit Haslinger, Nobody is born a legitimate target (2019), facultas.wuv - Maudrich, 1050 Wien, ISBN: 9783990309247

Beschreibung / Abstract

This book is based on the idea that targeting decisions demand a four-step test, which can simply be described as follows: Know the framework. Know yourself. Know your opponent. Know the circumstances. This test is depicted by a decision-making funnel which begins with a relatively large number of questions requiring a considerable amount of time to answer, the number of questions and time needed to answer them then tapers away as the process proceeds. Whereas the first two steps (“Know the framework” and “Know yourself”) may be determined prior to actual involvement in an armed conflict and therefore without major time restraints, the last two steps (“Know the opponent” and “Know the circumstances”) require fast assessment. This funnel is similarly depicted by the number of questions raised in connection to the four steps and also in relation to the page count of the respective chapters dealing with the different steps.
This book does not attempt to add new views or more detailed assessments, rather it seeks to find a way to apply existent laws and their interpretations in a coherent way to fit into the four-step test established by the author.


  • Nobody is born a legitimate target
  • Introduction
  • Historical overview: Warfare, individuals and groups
  • A. Ancient history
  • B. The Middle Ages
  • C. Modern period
  • D. Summary and concluding remarks
  • Step I: Know the framework
  • A. Legal Framework
  • B. Moral Framework
  • C. Summary and concluding remarks
  • Step II: Know yourself
  • A. Who may grant combatant’s privilege
  • B. Who enjoys combatant’s privilege
  • C. Who does not enjoy combatant’s privilege
  • D. Special questions
  • E. Summary and concluding remarks
  • Step III: Know your opponent
  • A. Definition of lawful targets
  • B. Human targets because of status: Combatants
  • C. Human targets because of conduct: Civilians
  • D. No intermediate category between civilian and combatant
  • E. What really matters in relation to targeting: status v conduct
  • F. Protected persons
  • G. Summary and concluding remarks
  • Step IV: Know the circumstances
  • A. Precautions in attack
  • B. Further considerations
  • C. Summary and concluding remarks
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography / Index of Authorities
  • Index

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