Human Shields/Human Crosshairs: Colonial Legacies and Contemporary Wars

Vasuki Nesiah
2016 AJIL Unbound  
The nomenclature of human shields did not exist in 19th century colonialism, but one can find its proxies in the debates regarding the principles of distinction and proportionality when defining legitimate targets. Its specters appeared in the discussions weighing human life and moderating warfare, revealing how the imperatives of colonial conquest inflected "humanitarian reason" and its epistemic and political investments. The colonized territory rendered all civilians as potential human
more » ... tential human shields merely by existing there. The colonizer/colonized distinction trumped the civilian/combatant distinction and exposed the radical instability of the principles defining the notion of human shields; the colonizer seldom thought he had reached the threshold of disproportionality in violence against the colonized. Instead, the "civilizing mission" rendered the colonized body perennially vulnerable.
doi:10.1017/aju.2016.6 fatcat:25olsngyhjfcvdrpdsqfva6qaq