Philosophy Colloquium: Alejandro Chehtman
Assessing the legal equality of belligerents in asymmetrical warfare
The Spring 2022 Philosophy Colloquium Series presents Alejandro Chehtman (Torcuata di Tello University, Buenos Aires).
Abstract: This chapter critically assesses the distribution of combatant privilege among participants in asymmetrical armed conflicts. Combatant privilege entails that participants in armed conflict are not liable to be criminally sanctioned for taking part in war. In the previous chapter I argue that members of state armed forces are justifiedly entitled to combatant privilege. Their privilege is based on the fact that individuals fighting for state armed forces have pro tanto decisive reasons to fight. The present chapter expands this analysis to other relevant participants in contemporary asymmetrical conflicts. It argues that unlike state combatants, members of non-state armed groups, foreign fighters, and personnel of private military security companies are pro tanto liable to being prosecuted for taking part in armed conflict. This obtains, at least when they do not take part in conflicts which can be termed manifestly just. By contrast, I argue that child soldiers are to be treated in a manner similar to privileged combatants (i.e., legally protected against legal sanctions), and that UN-peacekeepers should not only be immune from prosecution, but also that attacking them should result in liability to punishment. Together, these chapters articulate a systematic, principled account of the scope and application of the principle of equality between belligerents, one of the key normative questions in the ethics of war.