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It seems I am chronically unable to get my questions posted here. Being stubborn as I am, IŽll try with another one:

An Oxford professor of law let a question hanging at the end of a lecture some months ago: Whether or not it is possible to clearly distinguish when the interpretation of a statement is based on what is actually implied, and when it is not. One thing is obviously analyzing the literal meaning of a statement in isolation, but few rules are without exception even when no literal exception is provided. The example given was somewhat similar to this:

1. An army officer gives a soldier a command to bomb a vehicle.
2. The soldier later observes that the vehicle transports school children, and not enemy combatants, as the soldier assumed it would.

Both the soldier and the officer are familiar to international law, prohibiting indiscriminate or deliberate attacks on civilians. The directive however is in its literal form without exception. Can one really say that regard to the law is implied in the statement, or is it something the soldier supplements the statement with, when he decides not to bomb the vehicle? This sort of question obviously has implications for legal interpretation in general. But what is the "philosophical" way of drawing the line?

Much appreciated.

December 13, 2012

Response from Oliver Leaman on December 20, 2012
No instruction is without exception, and modern armies do try to educate their soldiers in the rules of war, especially when it comes to harming noncombatants. Whether they do enough in this area I could not say, but the example is not accurate in its description of how armies actually operate. It is not on the whole armies that deliberately attack civilians but other sorts of combatants, although armies are often too lax in their precautions against harming civilians, no doubt.


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