Beyond life and limb: Exploring incidental mental harm under international humanitarian law

Eliav Lieblich*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In recent years, much effort has been made, in different forums, to clarify some of international humanitarian law's (IHL) vaguer standards. However, little attention has been given to the meaning of the concept of civilian harm. This chapter seeks to contribute to the understanding of harm by exploring, in a preliminary manner, an uncharted question: the issue incidental mental harm under the proportionality principle of jus in bello. The chapter asks first whether the inclusion of incidental mental harm in the proportionality calculus is a utopian suggestion, upsetting the delicate balance of IHL. It thereafter exemplifies IHL's seeming blind-spot with regard to the issue, concluding that the lack of direct treatment of the concept does not amount to its negation. The chapter then critically explores possible challenges to the recognition of incidental mental harm, positing that these are not convincing. All in all, the chapter asserts that it is high time that states, commanders, judges and fact-finding missions take incidental mental harm seriously, if IHL is to maintain its integrity as a legal field setting out to minimize civilian harm.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationApplying International Humanitarian Law in Judicial and Quasi-Judicial Bodies
Subtitle of host publicationInternational and Domestic Aspects
PublisherT.M.C. Asser Press
Number of pages34
ISBN (Electronic)9789462650084
ISBN (Print)9462650071, 9789462650077
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


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