Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Human shields surround Iranian nuke plant

On Sunday, I posted about a game called Persian Incursion that essentially war-games an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. I haven't played it yet but the review I quoted made it sound really interesting.

I had a brief discussion in the comments with one of the game designers about what possible scenarios are included, and I wrote:
My only remaining question about the likelihood of civilian casualties would be if Iranian civilians are coerced or volunteer to be human shields for military or nuclear sites. Less likely than Hamas, but certainly in the realm of possibility.
The game co-designer, Jeff Dougherty, answered:
That is indeed a possibility, and one we didn't consider in the game. I can see it going either way depending on how it's presented, how deep the media digs on the story, and what the attitude of the rest of the world is at the start....
Well, my scenario has already happened.
Hundreds of students on Tuesday formed a human chain around the uranium conversion plant in central Iran, in a demonstration staged by students to show that Iranians were ready to sacrifice their lives if the nuclear sites were attacked by Israel.

After holding a noon prayer session in front of the plant's main gate, students from Isfahan universities shouted "Death to Israel" and "Death to America." They vowed to resist in the event of an attack.

There is a small body of literature on the legal status of voluntary human shields. From what I can glean, if they are protecting an unquestioned military installation or target, according to most (except HRW) they forfeit their status as civilians and become considered combatants under international law. If they are shielding a dual-use facility, which would include nuclear research and nuclear material refining, it appears that they would maintain their status as civilians.

Which makes my question, all of a sudden, really relevant.

(h/t Omri at Commentary)