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Shot in the Dark: International Law of Targeting in Theory and State Practice

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The article explores a sub-branch of the international law of armed conflict, generally referred to as international law of targeting, which regulates the choice of targets that can be lawfully attacked, and the means and methods of an attack. It analyzes the two pillars on which the current international legal regulation rests, namely the concept of military objective and proportionality in attack, as they are interpreted in theory and applied by states in actual combat. Special attention is also paid to the case law of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia which is the only international court that has repeatedly dealt with targeting. A separate chapter also assesses the prevailing view in the military doctrine which is thus separated from the actual state behaviour in war. After examining the differing opinions of international law scholars, rulings of the Yugoslav Tribunal, military doctrine and state practice, the article concludes that despite criticism and different interpretations, the current international law of targeting keeps proving to be realistic and viable in contemporary armed conflicts. It argues that those accusing states of violations, rather often tend to forget, that war inevitably entails suffering and that the purpose of the law of armed conflict is not to make warfare impossible, but rather to mitigate suffering and other negative impacts.


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