THE BLOG
22/10/2015 07:48 BST | Updated 21/10/2016 06:12 BST

Civilians Must Never Be Intentionally Targeted Under International Human Rights Law

It is a fundamental principle of international criminal law and international human rights law that civilians may not be subjects of intentional violent acts aiming to kill, seriously injure, terrorize, and torture including in the context of attempts at achieving national self-determination.

Immanuel Kant's Formula of Humanity that human beings must be treated as ends in themselves and never as means to an end is a simple and powerful articulation of the moral basis of international laws that protect both human dignity and human rights by insisting upon the primacy of guaranteeing the rights of civilians not to be targeted violently in conflict.

When the distinction between combatant and civilian is wilfully collapsed the violence that is unleashed upon human rights law itself and - more importantly - on human beings is massive and often irreparable. It leads only to greater injustice, suffering, and exacerbated and more lethal conflict that is deeply destructive.

Articles have recently appeared in the British press, specifically, in the Guardian, that in sometimes subtle but unmistakably clear ways justify premeditated violence against civilians in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In publishing such articles the media encourages the violation of international criminal and international human rights law. It provides a platform for incitement against legally protected civilians who have the same human rights whatever their nationality, ethnicity, religion, and background and which must be respected universally, without discrimination.

Palestinians and Israelis have the same moral and legal responsibilities never to intentionally target civilians in the context of conflict; both civilian populations are protected by the same international laws and nothing - including efforts to protest and resist occupation and seek independence - justifies intentionally harming and killing civilians.

This is true in all conflicts, in every country, on every continent. There are no exceptions in human rights law on the basis of a special claim that parties to a conflict because of injustices they have endured and/or because they have less power and resources than the opposing party in a conflict have the right to violate the rights of others in seeking to realize their own rights.

To suggest otherwise, and to argue that innocent civilians can be targeted in efforts to achieve self-determination is to justify the crime of murder and to potentially incite to murder and the crimes against humanity of murder and of extermination, if pursued in the context of an organized widespread and systemic attack.

Such justifications of violence against innocent civilians - both implicit and explicit - should have no place in the media and are an assault on international human rights and international criminal law, on the laws of the United Kingdom which prohibit incitement to violence, and an egregious attack on innocent civilians who must be protected in situations of violent conflict, irrespective of their identity, background, and affiliation.