Terrorism in pursuit of national liberation: is it permissible?

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National liberation movements are the movements which seek, often by the use of force, to remove foreign occupiers from the territory on which their national group is settled, Some armed national liberation movements kill civilians of the occupying power who are not threatening to use force against their national groups or who do not even live on the occupied territory and have no link to the occupation of their territory. Can this form of terrorism (killing non-threatening civilians) be justified, in wars of national liberation, as a response of the occupied population to the use of force or the threat of the use of force by the occupying power? A morality of victimhood, examined in this paper, justifies this form of terrorism as a form of self-defense. Although the civilians killed are not threatening the occupied national group, killing them is the only means that the (very weak) national liberation movement has at its disposal in its efforts to liberate its national group. The lives of innocent civilians are here only instruments towards national liberation. In consequence, this type of justification fails to satisfy the Kantian prohibition of using someone's life merely as an instrument. But apart from the morality of victimhood, there are other ethical codes - such as the code of revenge and the code of national liberation - that may offer justification for killing civilians. These ethical codes reject the above Kantian prohibition and for this reason they are not examined in this paper.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-102
Number of pages13
JournalBelgrade Philosophical Annual = Filozofski godišnjak
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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