Wise men and shepherds: A case for taking non-lethal action against civilians who discover hiding soldiers

Journal of Military Ethics 10 (2):110-119 (2011)
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Soldiers hiding in enemy territory that are discovered by civilians face acute ethical problems as to what to do about them. The law of armed conflict forbids harming civilians, yet if they are released they may well betray the soldiers and alert enemy forces that will kill or capture the soldiers. This is not just a theoretical problem; there are recent documented accounts of British and American soldiers who have found themselves in such a position and who have died because they released the civilians. This paper argues that the ethical imperative here is to save the lives of both the soldiers and the civilians and that this should be the guiding principle in such cases. To this end, where possible, non-lethal means of restraint should be used on civilians to incapacitate them while the soldiers escape



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