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Killing in War$
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Jeff McMahan

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199548668

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199548668.001.0001

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Civilian Immunity and Civilian Liability

Civilian Immunity and Civilian Liability

(p.203) 5 Civilian Immunity and Civilian Liability
Killing in War

Jeff McMahan (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter criticizes the orthodox view that all civilians are morally immune from intentional attack simply by virtue of their status as civilians. Among other things, this view makes liability a matter of group membership, or collective identity, rather than of individual action. It notes that the criterion of liability defended in Chapter 4 implies that civilians can in principle be morally liable to certain forms of harm in war. They may, for example, be liable to pay reparations, to suffer certain effects of economic sanctions, or to suffer the burdens of military occupation. Less commonly, some civilians may be liable to suffer certain harmful side effects of military action taken against military targets. The chapter concludes, however, by arguing that in practice civilians are virtually never morally liable to intentional military attack and by explaining why the possibility of civilian liability does not imply the permissibility of terrorism.

Keywords:   collateral damage, proportionality, military occupation, Hiroshima, terrorism

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