Over the last decade, the concept targeted killing has received much attention in debates on the customary interpretation of the right to self-defence, particularly in the context of practices such as US armed drone attacks. In these debates, government silence has often been invoked as acquiescence to the jus ad bellum aspects of targeted killing. Focusing on the question of state silence on targeted killing practices by the Israeli and US governments in recent years, this article investigates over 900 UN Security Council and Human Rights Council debates and argues that there has been no tacit consent to targeted killing. The analysis firstly shows that the majority of states have condemned Israeli targeted killing practices and have raised concerns about armed drone attacks, while falling short of directly protesting against US practices. The article, secondly, applies the customary international law requirements for acquiescence and challenges the idea that silence on US armed drone attacks can be understood as a legal stance towards targeted killing. The article, finally, investigates the political context and engages with alternative interpretations of silence. Contextualizing acts of protest and lack of protest within an asymmetrical political context, the article posits that the invocation of silence as acquiescence in the case of targeted killing is problematic and risks complicity of legal knowledge production with the violence of hegemonic actors.
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