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International Law Studies

Abstract

The United States Department of Defense Law of War Manual misrepresents customary international law governing target selection, precautions in attack and proportionality. Contrary to the Manual’s assertions, attackers with a choice of targets for obtaining a similar military advantage must select the target that endangers the fewest civilians; often must avoid harming civilians even at some additional risk to themselves or to their mission; and must refrain from attack if the expected harm to civilians—including to civilians forced to serve as human shields—would be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage.

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