Colm McKeogh

University of Waikato, New Zealand


Abstract: This article investigates how issues of political responsibility connect to the combatant/civilian distinction in armed conflict. It does so by looking at an attempted moral justification of terrorism in a democracy by a just war theorist. The attempt is by Igor Primoratz who claims that civilians who actively support injustice do not merit immunity from targeting (Primoratz, 2002).  Primoratz suggests amending the principle of civilian immunity to permit targeting of civilians who are culpable for an unjust war. This article argues that culpability plays no role in the justification of targeting combatants and can not be used to justify the targeting of civilians. Combatants may be targeted in war because of a convention-dependent permission that they may be treated as instruments. Civilians may not be targeted in war because no such convention-dependent permission exists (and there are no benefits to creating such a convention). Nor can the justification of self-defence be used to justify the targeting of civilians in armed conflict because there is a threshold of culpability to be met before self-defence is permitted and the citizens of a democracy do not meet that minimum standard.