Alex J. Bellamy

in Massacres and Morality

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199288427
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745430 | DOI:

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The intentional killing of civilians, whether in peacetime or war, is morally prohibited. Most of the world's major ethical traditions and legal codes forbid the deliberate killing of people who are neither members of the armed forces nor guilty of some crime punishable by death. This is the norm of civilian immunity, widely regarded as a fundamental prescriptive norm and moral principle. Yet despite the fact that most peoples agree that killing civilians is wrong, such killing remains a persistent feature of global political life. To make matters worse, those that commit these grave wrongs are as likely to succeed in their plans as they are to be punished. This introductory chapter sets out the paradox in more detail and outlines the book's focus and key arguments. Pointing out that the frequency of mass killing in world politics is declining, it argues that there is evidence to suggest that civilian immunity is a factor that weighs on potential perpetrators.

Keywords: civilians; ethical traditions; legal codes; civilian immunity; mass killing; frequency

Chapter.  5973 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: International Relations

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