• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!fund-drive-progress-thermometer

A generous supporter has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Assassination By Drones

The first step in examining the legality of assassinating known or suspected terrorists through the use of unmanned armed vehicles (UAVs) is to decide whether such killings could be classified as part of an armed conflict.  If they are considered as part of an armed conflict, according to international law, the rules of armed conflict would apply; otherwise the laws of self-defence would be relevant.

According to the Geneva Conventions and customary humanitarian law, armed conflict only applies when two or more States are involved.  When the United States defines its campaign against terrorists as a global conflict, this designation is not based on the correct definition of war as characterized by international law but on America’s own interpretation of its effort to eradicate terrorism.  Only two or more States can legally, in the strictest terms, engage in war, not a State against individuals scattered around the globe.

The international laws relating to self-defence apply to the case where a State is seeking to protect itself from a group or groups of terrorists.  The laws of self-defence are articulated in the seventh chapter of the United Nations Charter.  In Chapter 7, Article 51, it states that: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs..Measures taken by members in the exercise of the right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not…affect the authority or responsibility of the Security Council…to take such action…to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

In analyzing this clause in the UN Charter, the overriding issue is whether this right of self-defence only exists if an armed attack has occurred or whether self-defence is legitimate under conditions of “anticipatory self-defence” or “pre-emptive self-defence”.

A precedent exists in customary law in the Caroline case which established that an “imminent threat” exists when it is “instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.”  Developed by Daniel Webster, these criteria legitimize the use of force in the absence of an act of aggression.

There is an extensive body of work seeking to define when the use of force is legitimate given an imminent threat including the argument that: “The rule does not actually require an attack to be imminent to act, but rather permits defensive measures to be taken before one passes a point in time when it is too late to prevent catastrophe.

Based on the existing literature, it is difficult to argue that the threat extended by a single or group of terrorists poses a threat to the security of the United States.  It could be argued that terrorist poses a threat to individuals or to property belonging to the United States in which case criminal law applies and the response requires police action not an armed attack by a State.

A further point reinforcing the argument of a police action is that these targets of drone attacks are suspects until due process condemns them for criminal acts.  Killing the suspect precludes the application of due process.

It is clearly evident that for a State to launch an attack by an UAV is a violation of international law and those responsible for such acts become suspects of war crimes.  Arbitrary killing of individuals around the world notwithstanding the justification cannot be in accordance with the rule of law under which certain norms of behaviour have been established for the treatment of individuals suspected of illegal acts.

David Model is a Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Seneca College in Toronto.

 

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
October 14, 2019
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
Class Struggle is Still the Issue
Mike Miller
Global Climate Strike: From Protest To Power?
Patrick Cockburn
As Turkey Prepares to Slice Through Syria, the US has Cleared a New Breeding Ground for Isis
John Feffer
Trump’s Undeclared State of Emergency
Dean Baker
The Economics and Politics of Financial Transactions Taxes and Wealth Taxes
Jonah Raskin
What Evil Empire?
Nino Pagliccia
The Apotheosis of Emperors
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A Passion for Writing
Basav Sen
The Oil Despots
Brett Wilkins
‘No Friend But the Mountains’: A History of US Betrayal of the Kurds
John Kendall Hawkins
Assange: Enema of the State
Scott Owen
Truth, Justice and Life
Thomas Knapp
“The Grid” is the Problem, Not the Solution
Rob Kall
Republicans Are Going to Remove Trump Soon
Cesar Chelala
Lebanon, Dreamland
Weekend Edition
October 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
CounterPunch in Peril?
Anthony DiMaggio
Fake News in Trump’s America
Andrew Levine
Trump’s End Days
Jeffrey St. Clair
High Plains Grifter: the Life and Crimes of George W. Bush
Patrick Cockburn
Kurdish Fighters Always Feared Trump Would be a Treacherous Ally
Paul Street
On the TrumpenLeft and False Equivalence
Dave Lindorff
Sure Trump is ‘Betraying the Kurds!’ But What’s New about That?
Rob Urie
Democrats Impeach Joe Biden, Fiddle as the Planet Burns
Sam Pizzigati
Inequality is Literally Killing Us
Jill Richardson
What Life on the Margins Feels Like
Mitchell Zimmerman
IMPOTUS: Droit de seigneur at Mar-a-Lago
Robert Hunziker
Methane SOS
Lawrence Davidson
Donald Trump, the Christian Warrior
William Hartung – Mandy Smithburger
The Pentagon is Pledging to Reform Itself, Again. It Won’t.
Richard Moser
The Empire Is Running Out of War Stories. Or is it? Will American Exceptionalism Rise Again?
Roger Harris
Why Trump is Facing Impeachment
Doug Lummis
Everything Going Wrong in Okinawa
Ramzy Baroud
Administrative Torture: Free Heba al-Labadi, a Jordanian Citizen in Israeli Prison
Christopher Ketcham
Ode to the Drums of Ginger Baker
W. T. Whitney
Upcoming Elections Represent Testing Time for Bolivia’s Socialist Government
Louis Proyect
Building Soldier Resistance Under the Shadows of Fascism
Mark Ashwill
Reflections on General Giap and the End of an Era in Vietnam
Gabriel Leão
Killing the Messengers: Rising Violence Against Journalists and Indigenous Leaders Defending the Amazon
Graham Peebles
Climate Change: All Talk No Action
Arthur Hoyle
The Meaning of Donald Trump
Dean Baker
Those Quaint Corporate Scandals in Japan
Laura Santina
Take Their Feet Off Our Necks
Julian Vigo
The New Workers’ Revolution is Afoot
Robert Koehler
The Rights of Nature
Dan Bacher
New Report Reveals Oil Waste in CA Aquifers
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail