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Lawful But Awful? Legal and political challenges of remote warfare and working with partners

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Emily Knowles and Abigail Watson
31 May 2018

This report examines the political and legal implications of working with local partners to wage remote warfare. The report shows that there are characteristics of the way that the UK is currently choosing to fight that mean that it may find itself in legal ‘grey zones’. In the short term working by, with, or through local partners on the frontlines against terrorist groups may provide flexibility and freedom of manoeuvre. However, it also leaves the government and the armed forces  in a position of latent legal liability.  Of equal importance to the military, legal, and policy communities should be the fact that legality is not synonymous with good strategy – what is lawful can still be awful. If the British government is serious about being a credible international broker it needs to be able to tell other governments when they are failing to fulfil their commitments under international law, or when they are acting irresponsibly.

Read the report

Image credit: Golden Lady Justice, Bruges, Belgium. Wikimedia Commons, Emmanuel

About the authors

Emily Knowles is Director of the Remote Warfare Programme

Abigail Watson is a Research Officer at the Remote Warfare Programme


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