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Law and War$
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Austin Sarat, Lawrence Douglas, and Martha Merrill Umphrey

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780804787420

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804787420.001.0001

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Limits of Law: Promoting Humanity in Armed Conflict

Limits of Law: Promoting Humanity in Armed Conflict

Chapter:
(p.23) Limits of Law: Promoting Humanity in Armed Conflict
Source:
Law and War
Author(s):

Sarah Sewall

Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804787420.003.0002

Sarah Sewall’s chapter appears to tell a familiar story about the tension between “law on the books” and “law in practice.” Law’s efficacy, Sewall insists, will always be measured by its capacity to restrain actual practice. If too wide a gap opens between norm and practice, the very integrity of law will be eroded, as regulations turn farcical. This, Sewall fears, will be the consequence of the growth and proliferation of new laws of armed conflict. On closer inspection, Sewall’s argument reveals itself to be narrowly tailored to the specific problems raised by the fraught effort to submit war to legal regulation. Sewall notes that the law of armed conflict (LOAC) is built on a paradoxical relationship to violence. At its most basic level, the LOAC authorizes the purposeful, premeditated killing of another person. In this regard, the LOAC serves not only as a restraint but also as an authorization.

Keywords:   law of armed conflict, violence, humanity and law, authorized killing, law and war

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