Using international law to combat unlawful targeted killings
From bilateralism to community interest : essays in honour of Bruno Simma
Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2011
In recent years, targeted killings have been justified both as a legitimate response to terrorist threats and as a necessary response to the challenges of asymmetric warfare. The invocation of these justifications has led to a highly problematic blurring of the boundaries of the applicable legal frameworks, which include human rights law, the laws of war, and the law applicable to the use of inter-State force. Even where the laws of war are clearly applicable, there has been a tendency to expand the list of permissible targets and the conditions under which they may be killed. Moreover, the States concerned have often failed to specify the legal justification for their policies, to disclose the safeguards in place to ensure that targeted killings are in fact legal and accurate. or to provide accountability mechanisms for violations. Most troublingly, they have refused to disclose who has been killed, for what reason, and with what collateral consequences. The result has been the displacement of clear legal standards with a vaguely defined licence to kill, and the creation of a major accountability vacuum. The purpose of this essay is to spell out the appropriate legal framework and identify measures that should be taken to ensure appropriate accountability.
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