Why don't members of the Order of the Phoenix use any of the Unforgivable Curses in life-threatening situations?

I remember Harry (in the last part when he encounters Death eaters) and Dumbledore not using those curses when faced with mortal peril. None of the Order members tried to use these Curses in The battle fought at the end of the Order of the Phoenix.

Do people (Excluding Aurors) not use the Curses as they believe it would ensure a cell in Azkaban; even if they use them in life-threatening situations?

  • Can you site an example incident in the question? That would make the question better.
    – Stark07
    Apr 28, 2014 at 8:03
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    Sirius on Moody in GoF: “I’ll say this for Moody, though, he never killed if he could help it. Always brought people in alive where possible. He was tough, but he never descended to the level of the Death Eaters.” I imagine the Order were similar. Then read Donald McLean’s answer to Why were the Death Eaters so lenient during the fight at the Department of Mysteries?
    – alexwlchan
    Apr 28, 2014 at 8:16
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    @BoBTFish All the same, the books are great
    – Tom Lynd
    Apr 28, 2014 at 8:22
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    @BoBTFish: Interesting; I would say moral ambiguities around things like Harry’s use of Cruciatus, or Dumbledore’s selfish desire for the Hallows, elevates the books beyond simple Good/Evil. (However, I haven’t read ASOIAF, so I can’t compare.)
    – alexwlchan
    Apr 28, 2014 at 8:26
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    @BoBTFish: It sure was childish at first. Then it it was all about death death death suck your soul death death Neville's parents death death Lupin death death Tonks death Dobby death. Did I miss someone? Of course I did.
    – Saturn
    Apr 28, 2014 at 10:44

2 Answers 2


There are five reasons:

  1. Ethical.

    Both Harry and Dumbledore feel that using Unforgivable curses isn't exactly a Good Thing to do (Harry ends up using them when absolutely required in DH, however).

    • Harry is well known for relying on Expelliarmus (See the Seven Potters battle in DH as well as him using the same on Voldemort in the end)

    • Dumbledore is discussed as possessing knowledge (presumably of powerful dark spells) as deep as Voldemort's but choosing to not use it.

    • Dumbledore specifically is aware that power is his weak point. He understands that he's more in danger of corrupting his soul than Harry from using powerful Dark spells

  2. Practical

    Leaving aside ethics, Harry's not able to use Unforgivables well:

    • Fake Moody (Barty Crouch Jr) explicitly says when teaching them in Year 4 that you can't cast Avada Kedavra unless you're powerful; and if any of them cast it; they would at most give him a nosebleed

    • Harry tries to use Cruciatus on Bellatrix and she sneers at him explaining that you must put the full power of your hatred behind it to make it work

  3. Legal.

    Technically speaking, Unforgivables are illegal. The Ministry would be all too happy to stick the entire Order into Azkaban as you yourself stated, especially before Year 5 was done and Fudge was kicked out. Hell, they wanted to convict Harry for casting a bloody Patronus.

  4. Propaganda.

    It's easier to gold the moral high ground propaganda wise when you don't resort to using Unforgivable curses.

    As an example, witness issues that USA has with holding moral high ground against, say, Iran or North Korea, when detractors can easily bring up "well, let's see, who's the only country to actually drop a nuke on someone?". The nuances and context of decision to use or not use the weapon are irrelevant in that sort of propaganda war.

    Given that the other side here has Rita Skeeter and the Ministry flacks, letting them have the propaganda wins isn't a good approach.

  5. Usefulness.

    • Leaving aside the other two, Crucio isn't really a very useful curse for the Order. They never had a chance or a reason to interrogate someone (never mind real world debate on whether torture is useful during interrogation).

    • When absolutely needed, they use it (they use Imperio during the Potter's Eleven… errr…. the Great Gringotts Robbery)

  • Besides, the DoS battle was quite fast-paced. It wouldn't have been easy to mark your target properly. One could have easily missed and hit an ally. If they'd used an Unforgivable Curse when that happened, they'd be pretty sorry. Apr 28, 2014 at 16:43
  • NOTE: I didn't bother with book quotes, but can add them if someone needs. Apr 28, 2014 at 16:45
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    It seems they wished to avoid the "We met the enemy, and it was us" scenario. Apr 28, 2014 at 16:47
  • @MajorStackings - that's what I covered in #1, roughly. Apr 28, 2014 at 16:50
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    @TomLynd Avada Kedavra is a downright cruel spell. I doubt people like those in the Order would even think of taking someone's life. Yes, in the end some people need to be finished off, but there are other ways to do it. Or perhaps they thought that simply imprisonment or Dementor's Kiss is what Death Eaters' fates should be. Plus, directly killing someone rips your soul apart. I don't think anyone would want that (except Voldy, ofc). Apr 29, 2014 at 12:58

But doesnt Harry say at start of 6 to Dumbeldore that he wants to kill as many Death Eaters as possible in the process of trying to take down Voldemort?

It seems to me that in a battle situation - eg, Battle of Dept of Myst in 5, or Battle of Hogwarts in 7 - they'd certainly duel to kill. M McGonagall says to Slughorn that if the Slytherins attempt to sabotage their fight against the Death Eaters, then we will 'duel to kill.'

Dolohov, Lucius Malfoy,B Lestrange and co in Book 5 are completely willing and prepared to kill anyone in their way, so for an Order memeber to use a similar spell in that situation, would be self defense. Also remember that Sirius and Bellatrix are dueling around the dais with the veil - if Sirius knows that if you knock someone out behind the veil, then they die, well, then mightn't he be trying to kill B Lestrange? It's a possibility.

It's possible that they would prefer to send captured Death Eaters to Azkaban, however. (Although Dumbledore thinks the dementors' very presence in Azkaban is cruel and unusual punishment - not sure where he says this but he does! I think there's a line in 3 - Mr Weasley says he, like Dumbeldore, doesnt like the dementors, but sometimes you have to 'join forces with those you'd rather avoid' in extreme situations, such as, at that time, capturing the supposed mass murderer S Black.

Oh, and at end of book 4, Dumbledore tells Fudge he thinks the dementors wil soon rejoin Voldemort. So he isnt keen on them for that reason as well.

Snape could not kill a Death Eater because then he would be revealed as a spy and have to either go into hiding or be killed by Voldemort. Probably he'd be killed even if he went into hiding. So he's a special case. Other than that, however, it seems that Order members will use Avada Kedavra in battle situations.

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