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Dying as a side-effect: The Meaning of Proportionate Collateral Damage



Staff, Students, Academics


International Law permits killing civilians as an unintended side effect of attacks if the expected deaths are proportionate to the military advantage anticipated. But what does it look like when loss of human life and military advantage are ‘in balance’? Proportionality is a common concept in law, but the values at stake in war can be neither expressed in terms of each other nor easily translated into a common metric. This talk will discuss the results of an empirical study of Afghan civilians' and military experts' attitudes towards collateral damage asking two related questions. First, is there is a common standard of proportionality among military legal experts who face the task of applying the law? Second, when civilians who have become “collateral damage” make sense of what happened to them, do they use categories that are consistent with international law? Plainly put this talk will explore whether international law makes sense to those it means to guide and those it aims to protect?


Dr Janina Dill is Assistant Professor in Normative International Theory at the Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science and a Research Fellow of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict (ELAC) at the University of Oxford.

Dr Dill's research focuses on international law and ethics in international relations, specifically in war. I am interested in how legal and moral imperatives interact with strategic thinking and technological developments to explain conduct in war and the development of violent conflict more generally.

Dr Dill's doctoral dissertation was awarded the Lord Bryce Prize for the Best Dissertation in International Relations  and Comparative Politics” and Oxford University’s prize for an outstanding thesis in the area of international peace and understanding.

Dr Dill's latest monograph is Legitimate Targets? Social Construction, International Law and US Bombing (OUP, 2014).

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When and where

12.00pm - 2.00pmWednesday 11th May 2016

AG01 College Building City, University of London St John Street London EC1V 4PB United Kingdom

Contact Details

Dr Ioannis Kalpouzos

Lecturer in Law

City, University of London
Northampton Square
United Kingdom
020 7040 4122

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