Civilian Immunity and the Politics of Legitimacy

Alex J. Bellamy

in Massacres and Morality

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199288427
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745430 | DOI:
Civilian Immunity and the Politics of Legitimacy

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This chapter examines two conceptual issues that underpin the rest of the book. The first part clarifies what we understand to be the norm of civilian immunity. It considers how that norm relates to rules relating to the killing of civilians in wartime, peacetime and in genocide, each of which are governed by their own international legal regimes (International Humanitarian Law, International Human Rights Law and the Genocide Convention, respectively). It also examines the emergence of this norm. The second part examines how norms inhibit behaviour and frame the responses of third parties. It argues that actors prefer to gain social approval for their behaviour and tend to seek legitimacy by appealing to shared norms. This should mean that norms inhibit behaviour that cannot be plausibly justified. However, only where opportunities for self-exemptions are closed is the norm likely to inhibit actors who would otherwise choose to violate it. Moreover, third party responses to norm violations are also varied because they are mediated by contextual factors and dependent on other judgments.

Keywords: civilian immunity; international humanitarian law; human rights; genocide; norms; norm violations; third party responses

Chapter.  11689 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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