Human Shields: A History of People in the Line of Fire

1 December 2022, 3.00 PM - 1 December 2022, 5.00 PM

Lady Hale Moot Court, 8-10 Berkeley Square

On Thursday 1 December 2022, the Centre for International Law welcomes Professor Neve Gordon (Queen Mary, University of London) to present a seminar 'Human Shields: A History of People in the Line of Fire'. This is a presentation based on the author’s book of the same name, co-authored with Dr Nicola Perugini (University of Edinburgh).  This is a hybrid event.Please register in Eventbrite.
Abstract (from the book): A chilling global history of the human shield phenomenon.
From Syrian civilians locked in iron cages to veterans joining peaceful indigenous water protectors at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, from Sri Lanka to Iraq and from Yemen to the United States, human beings have been used as shields for protection, coercion, or deterrence. Over the past decade, human shields have also appeared with increasing frequency in antinuclear struggles, civil and environmental protests, and even computer games. The phenomenon, however, is by no means a new one.
Describing the use of human shields in key historical and contemporary moments across the globe, Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini demonstrate how the increasing weaponization of human beings has made the position of civilians trapped in theaters of violence more precarious and their lives more expendable. They show how the law facilitates the use of lethal violence against vulnerable people while portraying it as humane, but they also reveal how people can and do use their own vulnerability to resist violence and denounce forms of dehumanization. Ultimately, Human Shields unsettles our common ethical assumptions about violence and the law and urges us to imagine entirely new forms of humane politics.
About the seminar
This seminar is part of the Axis of Protection seminar series, co-convened by Dr Lawrence Hill-Cawthorne (Bristol), Dr Ruvi Ziegler (Reading), Professor Ana Beduschi (Exeter), and Dr Kubo Macak (Exeter/International Committee of the Red Cross). The Axis of Protection seminar series has run since 2013 and is funded by a Society of Legal Scholars Small Research Grant. Three to four seminars were held annually, one at each institution (which in the past has included Exeter, Reading, Oxford, Durham and the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights). The goal of the series is to invite a diverse range of external speakers to present their new and original research across a varied range of topics relating broadly to the international legal protection of human rights. Recent speakers have included Professor Hélène Lambert (Westminster), Professor Sir Malcolm Evans (Bristol), Professor Susan Breau (Reading), Dr Nicola Palmer (King’s College London), Dr Emily Haslam (Kent), Professor Michael Addo (Notre Dame London) and Bruno Demeyere (International Committee of the Red Cross).

Contact information

Please contact Dr Lawrence Hill-Cawthorne (

Book Cover - Human Shields: A History of People in the Line of Fire

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