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School of Law

Human Shields: A History of People in the Line of Fire

When: Thursday, January 21, 2021, 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Where: Online,

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IHSS and ISCI webinar with Professor Neve Gordon on historical and contemporary uses of humans shields.

About this Event

From Syrian civilians locked in iron cages to veterans joining peaceful indigenous water protectors at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, from Sri Lanka to Iraq and from Yemen to the United States, human beings have been used as shields for protection, coercion, or deterrence. Over the past decade, human shields have also appeared with increasing frequency in antinuclear struggles, civil and environmental protests, and even computer games. The phenomenon, however, is by no means a new one. In this talk, Neve Gordon will describe the use of human shields in key historical and contemporary moments across the globe as a way of interrogating the colonial and racial underpinnings of international law, while highlighting how warring parties use human shields to cast the use of lethal violence against vulnerable people as humane. Ultimately, the marginal and controversial figure of the human shield—who is simultaneously a human and a weapon—unsettles basic ethical assumptions about violence and the law and urges us to imagine entirely new forms of humane politics.

About the speaker

Professor Neve Gordon’s (Professor of International Law and Human Rights, Queen Mary University of London) research focuses on international humanitarian law, human rights, new warfare technologies, the ethics of violence, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He writes regularly for the popular press and his articles have appeared in The Guardian, The Los Angles Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Al Jazeera, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and The London Review of Books@nevegordon