20 LJIL 359 (2007)
The Genesis of the Civilian

handle is hein.journals/lejint20 and id is 365 raw text is: 
Leiden Journal ofinternationalLaw, 20 (2007), pp. 359-376
Q Foundation of the Leiden Journal of International Law  Printed in the United Kingdom  doi:io. 1017/S0922156506003347



The Genesis of the Civilian


AMANDA ALEXANDER*






   Abstract
   This paper argues that the concept of the civilian is a specific way of viewing non-combatants
   that can be traced to the First World War. Before the war, non-combatants were seen by the
   law and the prevailing culture as citizens. The citizen was potentially and probably aggressive,
   bound to the fate of his or her state and, therefore, granted only minimal protection by law.
   The war, however, brought technological changes and a propaganda effort that transformed
   these citizens into a civilian population. Civilians were essential to the war effort, which meant
   that they were a target. Yet, at the same time, they were feminized, described as vulnerable
   and deserving of protection. This cultural shift influenced the way in which the laws of
   war were understood, leading to the replacement of the traditional categories of law with a
   military/civilian distinction in the 1923 Hague Draft Rules of Aerial Warfare. In this way the
   concept of the civilian entered international law.

   Key words
   civilian; First World War; international humanitarian law; legal history; 1923 Hague Rules of
   Aerial Warfare



Civilians today attract the protection of international law and the attention of the
world. Among   observers of conflict the plight of civilians is arguably the foremost
concern. In more theoretical circles, the inviolability of the civilian has become so ob-
vious and crucial that it has been described as the foundation of international order.'
   Yet the very importance of the civilian provokes the questions, what is the source
of this concern and what implications does it have for its subject? Some international
lawyers  presume  that it is a timeless principle of international law.2 Others see it
as an achievement   of the Lieber Code, the Hague Conventions,   and/or the Geneva
Conventions.3  In this article, however, I argue that the idea of the civilian is a pecu-
liar way of conceptualizing people that evolved  during the First World War. When
the war began  non-combatants   were  perceived as citizens, who were either volun-
tarily passive or wilfully dangerous. But after the Germans invaded Belgium  Allied
propaganda   erased the threatening  aspect of the non-combatant   population  and
redrew  them  as helpless victims. This characterization was reinforced as improve-
ments  to aircraft allowed for the bombardment of   vulnerable  population  centres
far from the front. Yet, at the same time as non-combatants seemed  to be more and



*   BA (Hons.), LL B (UNSW), LL M (Lond.); Ph.D. candidate at the Australian National University.
1.  A.-M. Slaughter and W Burke-White, 'An International Constitutional Moment', (2002) 43 Harvard Inter
    national Law Journal i, at 3.
2.  L. C. Green, The Contemporary Law ofArmed Confiict(2000), 2 29.
3.  L. Doswald-Beck, 'The Civilian in the Crossfire', (1987) 24 Journal ofPeace Research 251, at 252.

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