Case Western Reserve journal of international law, Vol. 45, no. 1, 2012, p. 215-234
Leila Nadya Sadat
The U.S. practice of targeted killing by remotely-piloted unmanned vehicles in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Somalia - popularly referred to as "America's drone wars" - raises the question of the application of humanitarian law principles to the conduct of America's longest - running war. Yet, it not only presents complex issues of international law but difficult moral and ethical questions. Administration officials and some academics and commentators have praised targeted killing as effective and lawful. Others have criticized it as immoral, illegal, and unproductive. This article concludes that conducting targeted killing operations outside areas of active hostilities violates international law. In addition, even in areas in which targeted killings may be lawful, particular uses of drones may violate international humanitarian law if insufficient attention is paid to principles of proportionality and distinction in their use, particularly as regards decisions of whom, how, and when to target an individual for death.