Civilian casualties


Civilian casualties

Civilian casualties is a military term describing civilian or non-combatant persons killed, injured, or imprisoned by military action. The description of civilian casualties includes any form of military action regardless of whether civilians were targeted directly. This differs from the description of collateral damage that only applies to unintentional effects of military action including unintended casualties.

Civilian casualties therefore include victims of atrocities such as the Nanking Massacre committed on a civilian population where hundreds of thousands of men were slaughtered, while girls and women ages ranging from 10 to 70 were systematically raped or killed by Japanese soldiers in 1937. Another example is the My Lai Massacre (Vietnamese: thảm sát Mỹ Lai) that was committed by U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War on hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese civilians. Such military action, which has the sole purpose of inflicting civilian casualties is illegal under modern rules of war, and may be considered a war crime or crime against humanity.

Other kinds of civilian casualties may involve the targeting of civilian populations for military purposes, such as the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed over 100,000 civilians. The legality of such action was at the time governed by international law found in the Hague Regulations on Land Warfare of 1907, which state "the attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited".[1] Also relevant, were the Hague Draft Rules of Air Warfare of 1922–1923, which state "air bombardment is legitimate only when is directed against a military objective."[2][3] The Rome Statute defines "intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population" to be illegal, but only came into effect on July 1, 2002 and has not been ratified by every country.[4]

Contents

The ethics of civilian casualties

Many modern nations' views on the ethics of civilian casualties align with the Just War theory, which advocates a system of proportionality. An act of war is deemed proportional in Just War theory if the overall destruction expected from the use of force is outweighed by the projected good to be achieved.[5] This view is a war-adapted version of utilitarianism, the moral system which advocates that the morally correct action is the one that does the most good.

However, moral philosophers often contest this approach to war. Such theorists advocate absolutism, which holds there are various ethical rules that are, as the name implies, absolute. One such rule is that non-combatants cannot be attacked because they are, by definition, not partaking in combat; to attack non-combatants anyway, regardless of the expected outcome, is to deny them agency. Thus, by the absolutist view, only combatants can be attacked. The philosopher Thomas Nagel advocates this abolutist rule in his essay [6]War and Massacre.

Finally, the approach of pacifism is the belief that war of any kind is morally unjust. Pacifists sometimes extend humanitarian concern not just to enemy civilians but also to combatants, especially conscripts.[7]

Civilian casualty ratio

The civilian casualty ratio in an armed conflict is the ratio of civilian casualties to combatant casualties or total casualties. The measurement can apply either to casualties inflicted by a particular belligerent or to casualties in the conflict as a whole.

According to a 2001 study by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the civilian to soldier death ratio in wars fought since the mid-20th century has been 10:1, meaning ten civilian deaths for every soldier death.[8] Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, the number of civilian casualties as a proportion of total casualties has been rising.

See also

References

Further reading


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Civilian casualties in the War in Afghanistan (2001–present) — The decade long War in Afghanistan (2001–present) has caused the deaths of thousands of Afghan civilians directly from insurgent and foreign military action, as well as the deaths of possibly tens of thousands of Afghan civilians indirectly as a… …   Wikipedia

  • Civilian casualties of the War in Afghanistan (2001–present) — The War in Afghanistan (2001–present) has caused the deaths of thousands of Afghan civilians directly from insurgent and foreign military action, as well as the deaths of possibly tens of thousands of Afghan civilians indirectly as a consequence… …   Wikipedia

  • Civilian casualties during Operation Allied Force — The Kosovo War Before March 1999 Kosovo Liberation Army Battle of Belacevac Mine Battle of Lodja Battle of Glodjane Battle of Junik Attack on Prekaz Lapušnik prison camp Gornje Obrinje massacre Massacre at Velika Kruša Račak incident NATO… …   Wikipedia

  • Civilian casualties in the Second Intifada — Contents 1 Israeli non combatant casualties 2 Palestinian non combatant casualties 3 Western casualties in the Second Intifada 3.1 Casualties by Israel …   Wikipedia

  • Civilian casualties and displacements during the Cyprus conflict — This article covers the civilian casualties and displacements that occurred between 1963 and 1975 from the outbreak of the intercommunal fighting until the end of displacements following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Contents 1 1963 64: Turkish …   Wikipedia

  • Civilian casualties of strategic bombing — B 24 Sandman on a bomb run over the Astra Romana refinery in Ploieşti, Romania, during Operation Tidal Wave.[1] City Date Low estimates High estimates Attacking force Notes …   Wikipedia

  • List of Palestinian civilian casualties in the Second Intifada — The following is a list of Palestinian civilian casualties in the Second Intifada. Of the 4,281 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces or civilians since the beginning of the Second Intifada, 2,038 were civilians according to B Tselem.cite… …   Wikipedia

  • List of Israeli civilian casualties in the Second Intifada — The following is a partial list of Israeli non combatant casualties of the Second Intifada.Referencesee also* List of Palestinian civilian casualties in the Second Intifada * List of Hamas suicide attacks * List of Palestinian Islamic Jihad… …   Wikipedia

  • Casualties of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan — can be found at:*Civilian casualties of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan *Coalition Casualties in Afghanistan …   Wikipedia

  • Casualties of the Iraq War — This article is about casualties for the war beginning in 2003. For other wars, see Iraq war (disambiguation) …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.