Historical Social Research

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Karsten Nowrot: Animals at War: The Status of “Animal Soldiers” under International Humanitarian Law [Abstract]

In February 2014 the Taliban revealed the capture of a British military working dog in Afghanistan and posted a video of their captive on the internet. Taking this recent incident as a starting point, the contribution aims to evaluate some aspects relating to the issue of a possible incorporation of “animal soldiers” into the scope of application of international humanitarian law. For this purpose, the analysis proceeds in four main steps. In the first part, it is argued that international humanitarian law – although so far largely neglected in the respective discourses – is for a variety of reasons a particularly suitable research object from the perspective of a political theory of animal rights. Subsequently, a brief overview will be given of the current status – or rather non-status – of animals in the realm of the ius in bello. The third part addresses and discusses some of the chances resulting from as well as in particular also conceptual challenges arising in connection with a potential recognition of animals as international legal subjects having the status of combatants under the law of armed conflict. Finally, I sketch the probabilities of and possible conditions for a successful implementation of this approach in practice.

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