Chapter 15 “On Civilian Harm”: Perpetrators. Types, Intentions, Responsibility
This chapter is part of our book 'On Civilian Harm'. It discusses the findings of the thirteen cases and provides an overarching analysis of perpetrators of harm. The chapter provides an overview of the different types and intentions of actors who cause harm to civilians, and reflects on the question and extent of responsibility.
In this chapter, we focus on those who cause harm to civilians through the use of violence in hostilities: the perpetrators.1 In Part I, ‘Cases of civilian harm’, we have described the role of the perpetrators in as much detail as possible. We examined their intentions, capabilities, methods and tactics, how their chosen actions contributed to causing or mitigating harm, and whether perpetrators in their specific context were – or could be – aware of the harm caused by their actions. In this chapter, we bring reflections from the cases together to discuss perpetrators on a more conceptual level. We consider perpetrators’ legal status, their capabilities and different intentions, and we introduce the threat-based approach to the protection of civilians to demonstrate why understanding perpetrators of harm is crucial to preventing and minimising the negative effects of armed violence on civilians. We end the chapter with a brief reflection on the different ‘degrees’ of responsibility that may be assigned to particular perpetrators. A reflection on the impact of decisions made by perpetrators on civilians, for instance where it relates to weapons choices or target selection, is included in the next chapter on key factors that contribute to increased or mitigated harm
About this report
Date of publication:
Aug 26, 2021
Wilbert van der Zeijden, Erin Bijl, Welmoet Wels