Self-defense targeting of non-state actors and permissibility of U.S. use of drones in Pakistan
Jordan J. Paust
Host item entries:
Journal of transnational law and policy, Vol. 19, no. 2, Spring 2010, p. 237-280
The United States has used unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones over portions of Pakistani territory for reconnaissance and the targeting of members of al Qaeda and the Taliban who have in various ways taken a direct and active part in extensive and ongoing armed attacks against U.S. military personnel and other U.S. nationals in Afghanistan. Some have argued that the U.S. use of drones in Pakistan appears to have violated international law. Is the use of drones within Pakistan merely to target non-state actors under such circumstances violative of international law? Must the United States obtain the express consent of Pakistan before targeting non-state actors who engage in ongoing armed attacks against United States military personnel? Does such a use of armed force against non-state actors necessarily require a conclusion that the United States is at war with either the state from which non-state actor armed attacks are emanating or the non-state actor? Does the selective use of force in self-defense violate the human right to life of human targets who take an active part in the armed attacks? Does use of drones necessarily constitute indiscriminate targeting in violation of the general principle of proportionality? Before addressing these questions, one should consider relevant international legal norms concerning the permissibility of selective self-defense in response to armed attacks by non-state actors emanating from another state.