Saturday, July 29, 2006

Criminalising civilians

Juan Cole quotes at length a discussion of the criminalisation of civilians in Iraq and Lebanon:

In the days before the US-commanded forces unleashed the second siege of Falluja in November 2004, a quarter million women, children and old men fled the city, but males between the ages of 15 and 45 were denied passage. They were essentially criminalized and forced to remain in a zone upon which hell was about to descend. These poor souls were condemned to a legal category that philosopher Giorgio Agamben calls hominus sacres, those without rights who can be killed without it being called the murder of a human, homicide.
Look at this logic: since Israel has asked civilians to leave, any that disobeyed have forfeited their status as civilians. Because the United States and its British followers have blocked the resolution to stop the killing, Israel will continue until Hezbollah “is no longer present.” But remember Hezbollah has been redefined to include all those “still in south Lebanon.” This crude logic renders all the people of southern Lebanon hominus sacres.

A serious war crime may be imminent. The responsibility to protect civilians does not end when an invading army asks them to clear out. An Nahar also reported that hundreds of people were trapped in southern villages. Moreover, there is evidence that some who tried to flee north in cars have been targeted.

Note: the correct Latin term for someone who can be killed with impunity by anyone is "homo sacer" (singular) and "homines sacri" (plural).

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