Targeting State and Political Leadership in Armed Conflicts

By Jachec-Neale, Agnieszka | Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, May 2018 | Go to article overview

Targeting State and Political Leadership in Armed Conflicts


Jachec-Neale, Agnieszka, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


TABLE OF CONTENTS    I.   INTRODUCTION                                          932  II.   TARGETING LEADERSHIP                                  935        A. Commanders-in-Chief                                937        B. Ministers of Defense/Defense Secretaries           943        C. Members of the Government                          944        D. Political Party Leaders                            945 III.   TARGETING INFRASTRUCTURE ASSOCIATED WITH              947        LEADERSHIP        A. Requirements of the Definition of                  947           Military Objectives        B. Functions of the Buildings: Ministry               950           of Defense        C. Use/Purpose: Objects Used or                       952           Intended to Be Used by CiCs, Defense           Secretaries, Other Members of the           Government, or Members of           Political Parties        D. General Affiliation of the Objects                 954  IV.   CONCLUSIONS                                           955 

I. INTRODUCTION

Whilst much research and debate in the law of armed conflict has, in recent years, concentrated on the issue of when and how people may be subject to lawful attack, (1) far less consideration has been given to the question of if, and if so, when, physical objects associated with certain human activity can be regarded as lawful military objectives. (2) It may partly be due to the fact that we have a well-established rule in the law of armed conflict which stipulates that an occurrence of human activity described as "military use" is likely to render such physical objects as legitimate targets in the given circumstances. (3) Quintessential in such an assessment is an identification of the qualifying "use" and the required temporal scope of such a use.

However, in relation to some objects, such an assessment will prove to be far more challenging. These targets include places and infrastructure associated with the direction of the conduct of armed conflict including the control over armed forces by the civilian political leadership. The assessment of such objects raises some fundamental questions about the way in which they satisfy the criteria attached to the definition of military objectives and specifically its first element of "effective contribution to military action" by "use" or other criteria. (4) Such objects may satisfy the definition of military objectives if they are used by combatants or by other individuals for military purposes. In case of the objects used by non-combatants, the activity-centered analysis that is an evaluation of activity undertaken in given locations and buildings will determine the object's satisfaction of the first element of the definition. (5) The question then becomes relevant as to what are the boundaries of activity of civilian political leadership that can be deemed as having military purposes. Similarly, when the objects are used by the combatants for activities related to the conduct of hostilities, such targets are likely to be legitimate. There is also an argument that a use of objects by combatants irrespective of the specific military purposes would equally and in all circumstances render them lawful targets. The question arises, though, whether a similar association of buildings or places with a non-combatant politician, on account of their war-fighting powers or functions, may be considered sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the test.

Recent conflicts provide a plentitude of examples in which targets, namely those associated with leadership exercising command and control over armed forces and other functions or powers vital to the conduct of military operations, have been attacked.

Facilities associated with Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath Party in Iraq were frequently attacked both in 1991 and in 2003. In 1991, they included a variety of leadership-related national level facilities such as the Ministry of Justice, the Iraqi Central Bank, and the Ministries of Industry, of Planning, and of Information. …

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