Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

The Proportionality Principle in Operation: Methodological Limitations of Empirical Research and the Need for Transparency

  • Aaron Fellmeth (a1)

The principle of proportionality, notoriously obscure in application and subjective in interpretation, has been enforced so rarely as to call into question its potency as a meaningful international legal standard. Nonetheless, international criminal tribunals, academics, and the ICRC's monumental study on customary international humanitarian law all confidently proclaim the principle as embedded in the customary international law applicable to both international and non-international armed conflicts. To assess whether these claims are accurate, and to flesh out how states interpret the principle in practice, the author and a colleague have undertaken a long-term, multinational empirical study of state practice in interpreting and enforcing the proportionality principle. This article discusses the methodological options available and explains the one chosen for the proportionality study. The limitations of the study, in spite of its deliberate methodology, suggest that the debilities of the proportionality principle may not be conceptual as much as a byproduct of unnecessary military secrecy. This article concludes that greater transparency in state compliance with the rule of discrimination and the principle of proportionality would, at least, facilitate an understanding of how the hitherto obscure principle operates in practice and, at best, could create systemic effects that would decrease the dangers to civilians in armed conflicts.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Mahnoush H Arsanjani and W Michael Reisman , ‘The Law-in-Action of the International Criminal Court’ (2005) 99 American Journal of International Law 385

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Israel Law Review
  • ISSN: 0021-2237
  • EISSN: 2047-9336
  • URL: /core/journals/israel-law-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 3
Total number of PDF views: 25 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 97 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 22nd September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.