Laurie Blank recently wrote some of her thoughts on sieges on EJIL Talk! as part of the Joint Blog Series: Sieges, Evacuations and Urban Warfare: Thoughts from the Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict

[The Joint Series is hosted by the ICRC Humanitarian Law & Policy BlogEJIL Talk! and Lawfare. It arose out of the 6th Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict.]


Laurie Blank is a Clinical Professor of Law, Director of the Center for International and Comparative Law and Director of the International Humanitarian Law Clinic at Emory University School of Law.

In this post, she looks at how to balance different legal norms and operational considerations, asking questions such as:

  • Is evacuation of civilians an option? In what circumstances?
  • How should evacuation be carried out? By whom and to where? And for how long?
  • Sieges: If evacuation is not feasible, is isolation permissible if a decision is made not to attack?

Here is an excerpt:

Is evacuation of civilians an option? In what circumstances?

Imagine a military wants to evacuate civilians from an area—either within its own territory or in another State’s territory where the hostilities are expected or ongoing. The motivation is both humanitarian and based on military considerations: removing civilians from the area of hostilities protects them from harm and also frustrates the enemy’s attempts to use them as human shields or otherwise endanger them for tactical or strategic purposes. At the same time, any evacuation raises serious concerns about displacement, the ability of those civilians to received adequate food, shelter, medical care and other necessities, and the legal parameters for any such evacuation.

LOAC does provide space for evacuation of civilians. And, indeed, when utilized to protect civilians from the hazards of military operations, evacuation can help achieve LOAC’s core purpose of minimizing harm to civilians. At the same time, LOAC prohibits forcible displacement or transfer of the civilian population.

For the full blog post, please see Ejil Talk!

Other posts in the series:

For past Transatlantic Workshop Series

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