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Janina Dill

Janina Dill

(DPhil Oxon, MPhil Cantab)

John G. Winant Associate Professor in U.S. Foreign Policy, Professorial Fellow (Nuffield); Co-Director, Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict (ELAC)
Nuffield College
Office Address:
Nuffield College, Staircase J, Room 4


Janina Dill is the John G. Winant Associate Professor of U.S. Foreign Policy at the Department of Politics and International Relations (DPIR) of the University of Oxford. She is also a Professorial Fellow at Nuffield College and Co-Director of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law, and Armed Conflict (ELAC).

Her research concerns international law and ethics in international relations, specifically in war. Janina Dill investigates how legal and moral imperatives interact with strategic thinking and technological developments to explain conduct in war and the development of armed conflict. She also works on IR theory, specifically constructivism and the intersection of explanatory IR theories with normative political theory. 

Her first book, entitled Legitimate Targets? International Law, Social Construction and US Bombing, proposes a constructivist theory of international law and highlights tensions between a legal and a moral definition of a legitimate target of attack. It appeared with Cambridge University Press as part of the series Cambridge Studies in International Relations in 2015. The book was Runner-Up for the Birks Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship of the Society of Legal Scholars in 2016, and it has received an Honourable Mention by the Theory Section of the International Studies Association.

Her second book, entitled Law Applicable to Armed Conflict (co-authored with Ziv Bohrer and Helen Duffy), proposes a moral division of labour between human rights and humanitarian law and examines under what empirical circumstances each body of law should prevail over the other. It appeared in January 2020 with Cambridge University Press.




Research Interests

U.S. Military Practices

International Law

Laws of War/International Humanitarian Law

Just War Theory

Changing Character of War

Theories of International Relations

Ethics of war Foreign Policy and diplomacy International law International security Laws of war Violence security and conflict Normative theory

Previous Posts Held

She was previously employed as an Assistant Professor of Normative Political Theory at the Department of International Relations of the London School of Economics and Political Science.


Law Applicable to Armed Conflict. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2020) - Ziv Bohrer, Janina Dill, Helen Dufy

Which law applies to armed conflict? This book investigates the applicability of international humanitarian law and international human rights law to armed conflict situations. The issue is examined by three scholars whose professional, theoretical, and methodological backgrounds and outlooks differ greatly. These multiple perspectives expose the political factors and intellectual styles that influence scholarly approaches and legal answers, and the unique trialogical format encourages its participants to decenter their perspectives. By focussing on the authors' divergence and disagreement, a richer understanding of the law applicable to armed conflict is achieved. The book, firstly, provides a detailed study of the law applicable to armed conflict situations. Secondly, it explores the regimes' interrelation and the legal techniques for their coordination and prevention of potential norm conflicts. Thirdly, the book moves beyond the positive analysis of the law and probes the normative principles that guide the interpretation, application and development of law.



Legitimate Targets? International Law, Social Construction and US Bombing. Cambridge Studies in International Relations, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2015)

Based on an innovative constructivist theory of international law the book investigates the effectiveness of international humanitarian law (IHL) in regulating the conduct of hostilities. A comprehensive exegesis of the law defining a legitimate target of attack reveals an unacknowledged controversy among legal and military professionals about the logic according to which belligerents ought to balance humanitarian and military imperatives: the logics of sufficiency or efficiency. Although IHL prescribes the former, increased recourse to IL in US air warfare is constitutive of a legitimate target in accordance with the logic of efficiency. The logic of sufficiency is morally less problematic. Yet, neither logic satisfies contemporary expectations of effective IHL or legitimate warfare. Those expectations demand that hostilities follow a logic of liability, which proves impracticable. The book proposes changes to IHL, but concludes that according to widely shared normative beliefs on the 21st century battlefield there are no truly legitimate targets.


Reviews and Discussions


"Distinction, Necessity, and Proportionality: Afghan Civilians' Attitudes Towards Wartime Harm," Ethics and International Affairs, 2019, Vol. 3 (3), 315-342

"Do Attackers have a Legal Duty of Care? Limits to the 'Individualisation of War'," International Theory, 2019, Vol. 11 (1), 1-25 (open access!)

"The Rights and Obligations of Parties to International Armed Conflicts: From Bilateralism but not Towards Community Interest?" in: Eyal Benvenisti and George Notle (eds.) Community Interests Across International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018)  

"Just War Theory in Times of Individual Right," in: Robyn Eckersley and Chris Brown (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of International Political Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018)

"Abuse of Law on the 21st Century Battlefield: A Typology of Lawfare," in: Michael L. Gross and Tamar Meisels (eds.) Soft War: The Ethics of Unarmed Conflict (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017)

"Forcible Alternatives to War: Legitimate Violence in 21st Century International Relations," in: Jens David Ohlin (ed.) Theoretical Boundaries of Armed Conflict and Human Rights (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016)

“The 21st Century Belligerent’s Trilemma,” European Journal of International Law, 2015, Vol. 26 (1), pp. 83–108 

“Ending Wars: The jus ad bellum Criteria Suspended, Repeated or Adjusted?” introduction to edited symposium, Ethics, 2015, Vol. 125 (April), pp. 627–630

“The Informal Regulation of Drones and the Formal Legal Regulation of War,” contribution to the symposium on: Allen Buchanan and Robert O. Keohane, “Toward a Drone Accountability Regime,” Ethics and International Affairs, 2015, Vol. 29 (1), pp. 51-58

"The American Way of Bombing and International Law: Two Logics of Warfare in Tension," in: Matthew Evangelista and Henry Shue (eds.) Changing Ethical and Legal Norms, From Flying Fortresses to Drones (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014)

“Interpretive Complexity and the Principle of Proportionality,” Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Int. Law, 2014, Vol. 108, pp. 82-105

“Limiting Killing in War: Military Necessity and the St Petersburg Assumption,” Ethics and International Affairs, 2013, Vol. 26 (3), pp. 311-334 – Janina Dill and Henry Shue

“Should International Law Ensure the Moral Acceptability of War?” Leiden Journal of International Law, 2012, Vol. 26 (2), pp. 253-270 

"Puntland's Declaration of Autonomy and Somaliland's Secession: Two Quests for Self-governance in a Failed States," in: Katherine Nobbs and Mark Weller (eds.) Asymmetric Autonomy and the Settlement of Ethnic Conflict (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008 & 2010) 

Applying the Principle of Proportionality in Combat Operations,” policy paper for The Oxford Institute for Ethics and Law of Armed Conflict (ELAC), December 2010 

“The Definition of a Legitimate Target of Attack: Not More than a Moral Plea?” Proceedings of Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law, 2009, Vol. 103, pp. 229-232

“The United States’ Battle with Collateral Damage in Afghanistan,” policy paper for Oxford Analytica – Global Analysis and Advisory, August 2009
“The Principle of Proportionality in the Conduct of War,” policy paper for Oxford Analytica – Global Analysis and Advisory, February 2009

"Staatszerfall als neue Außenpolitische Herausforderung," in: Arne Niemann (ed.) Herausforderungen and die Deutsche und Europäische Außenpolitik - Analysen und Politikempfehlungen (Dresden: TUD Press, 2005) - Janina Dill and Nicolas Lamp


"The DoD Law of War Manual and the False Appeal of Differentiating Types of Civilians,Just Security, December 2016

"Assessing Proportionality: An Unreasonable Demand on the Reasonable Military Commander?" Intercross, EJIL Talk! and Lawfare, October 2016

"Five Don'ts for Introducing a Female Speaker," The Duck of Minerva, reposted on The Times Higher Education, May 2016

"Proportionate Collateral Damage and Why We Should Care What Civilians Think," Just Security, March 2015 

"Inside the Issues 5.7: Legitimate Targets," video pod cast for the Center for International Governance Innovation (GIGI), October 2014

"Israel's Use of Law and Warnings in Gaza," Opinio Juris, July 2014

 "Legitimate Targets? The Partial Effectiveness of International Law in War," pod cast for The Oxford Programme on the Changing Character of War (CCW), March 2013

Selected professional activities

Co-Director of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law, and Armed Conflict 



Ethics of war

Laws of war

Air warfare