Law and Ethics in Armed Conflict

Quelle: Schweizerisches BundesarchivArmed con­flicts are a tra­gic rea­li­ty. Becau­se vio­lence tends to inspi­re coun­ter vio­lence the­re is always a huge poten­ti­al for escala­ti­on in vio­lent con­flicts. Inter­na­tio­nal huma­ni­ta­ri­an law – espe­ci­al­ly the Gen­e­va Con­ven­ti­ons, its Addi­tio­nal Pro­to­cols and con­ven­ti­ons on wea­pon bans – has tried, more or less suc­cessful­ly, to reign in vio­lence in armed con­flicts. The pro­tec­tion of IHL is an important task for ethics.

Armed con­flicts are, howe­ver, also a chan­ging rea­li­ty. IHL takes into account a per­cep­ti­on of con­flict that, at the time of its con­cep­ti­on, was much more volu­b­le than today. This is espe­ci­al­ly true with regards to the role of the sta­te and the tech­ni­cal capa­bi­li­ties of modern war­fa­re. Non-state con­flict par­ties, who are now often cen­tral to the con­flict manage­ment pro­cess, were only indi­rect­ly tied to IHL as it was con­cei­ved as a bar­ri­er to vio­lent con­flict bet­ween sta­te actors. How non-state actors can be held to com­ply with IHL is one of the big­gest chal­lenges of our time. The deve­lo­p­ment of wea­pons tech­no­lo­gies (i.e. armed dro­nes) offers ways of waging war which were not pre­dic­ted in IHL and which must be inter­pre­ted through the­se legal texts. Attempts to soli­di­fy cus­to­ma­ry law in this area must also be made. .

Armed con­flicts must still be con­tai­ned. The cri­te­ria for this con­tain­ment can­not sim­ply be taken from the tech­no­lo­gy or the prac­ti­ce of vio­lence but must be found and estab­lished through careful ethi­cal examination.

Ine­vi­ta­b­ly, such a rese­arch pro­ject must the­r­e­fo­re begin with the fun­da­men­tals of vio­lent human inter­ac­tion. In order to retain its prac­ti­cal desi­ra­bi­li­ty, the pro­ject must also con­sider the rea­li­ty of vio­lence per­pe­tra­ted by peo­p­le in vio­lent conflicts.

Within the frame­work of this pro­ject the fol­lo­wing con­fe­ren­ces (among others) have been held: On the Pro­tec­tion of Civi­li­ans in Washing­ton D.C., Legi­ti­mi­zing Kil­ling in War in Ham­burg, The Boun­da­ries of Vio­lence against Oppo­sing Com­ba­tants in Colo­gne, Remo­te­ly Con­trol­led and Auto­ma­ted Wea­pons Sys­tems in Bad Hom­burg and Bern (CH) as well a fur­ther work­shop on mili­ta­ry vir­tu­es in Bad Homburg.

Project Supervisor

PD Dr. Bern­hard Koch