Terrorism, Supreme Emergency and Killing the Innocent

Perspectives - The Review of International Affairs 17 (1):105-126 (2009)
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Terrorist violence is often condemned for targeting innocents or non-combatants. There are two objections to this line of argument. First, one may doubt that terrorism is necessarily directed against innocents or non-combatants. However, I will focus on the second objection, according to which there may be exceptions from the prohibition against killing the innocent. In my article I will elaborate whether lethal terrorism against innocents can be justified in a supreme emergency. Starting from a critique of Michael Walzer’s account of supreme emergency, I will argue that the supreme emergency exemption justifies the resort to terrorism against innocents to avert moral disasters such as genocide and ethnic cleansing, provided that the criteria of last resort, proportionality and public declaration are satisfied.



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Anne Schwenkenbecher
Murdoch University

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