Permissible self-defense targeting and the death of Bin Laden
Jordan J. Paust
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Denver journal of international law and policy, Vol. 39, issue 4, Fall 2011, p. 569-583
This essay addresses several points made during a presentation at the Sutton Colloquium at the University of Denver College of Law on November 6, 2010 concerning the permissibility of use of responsive force in self-defense either in the context of war or outside of a relevant armed conflict when non-state actors such as members of al Qaeda engage in continual armed attacks on the United States, its embassies abroad, and its nationals abroad (especially continual attacks for several years on U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan). The essay notes that lawful measures of self-defense can occur outside the context of war and without foreign state consent against non-state actors who are directly participating in the armed attacks (DPAA) and, in the context of war, against persons who are directly participating in hostilities (DPH). In either context, general principles of distinction among persons, reasonable necessity, and proportionality will condition lawful uses of force. Indiscriminate uses of force either in self-defense or during war are impermissible.