Democratic Authorization and Civilian Immunity

Nenad Dobos

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    In a recent analysis of the principle of civilian immunity, Igor Primoratz asks whether the circle of legitimate targets in war might be expanded so as to include at least some civilian bystanders.2 However, Primoratz' formulation of the "responsible bystander" argument depends for its cogency on there being natural or non-acquired positive duties, and this is controversial. Furthermore, we feel that the citizens of a government unjustly at war are primarily and specially obliged to undermine that war, and that this is not simply a function of their being in the best position to do so, (which may not always be the case). Primoratz' version of "responsible bystander" cannot account for this. Here I develop an alternative formulation that does, and which is not reliant on controversial premises. I argue that to empower a government democratically is to assume a positive obligation to prevent that government from using its power to prosecute an unjust war, and that the neglect of this duty may render a significant portion of the duty-bound collective legitimate targets of necessary and proportionate violence. In closing I dispute Primoratz' claim that this conclusion has "very little purchase on reality" or is irrelevant for practical purposes
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)81-88
    Number of pages8
    JournalThe Philosophical Forum
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


    Dive into the research topics of 'Democratic Authorization and Civilian Immunity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this