Killing Qasem Soleimani : international lawyers divided and conquered
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Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, Vol. 54, issue 1, 2021, p. 163-196
Source : https://scholarlycommons.law.case.edu/jil/vol53/iss1/8/ (last accessed on 25.05.2021)
The article is structured in two main parts. First, it sets out the facts surrounding the death of Soleimani as reported by media outlets and widely relied upon by international legal experts. It then delves into the analysis by no less than 15 of them who co-authored 11 legal briefs of varying depth. All such briefs tackle, more or less, the same overarching question: Was the killing of Soleimani by U.S. drone strikes in conformity with the relevant requirements of international law, consisting of the jus ad bellum (“JAB”), jus in bello (“JIB”) and international human rights law (“IHRL”)? However, there was little consensus among the experts — if any. The article hopes to better understand why international lawyers disagree so spectacularly by comparing and contrasting the variety of views in the Soleimani-case and stripping down the supporting argumentation to uncover the underlying (theoretical and methodological) approach. The article’s second part will tackle that preliminary examination. The root of the problem indeed appears to lie in a different methodological approach to the same issue, which includes relying on different sources and/or interpreting the same sources differently. Add to that the law’s supposed indeterminacy, the absence of an authoritative arbiter, and contemporary academic idiosyncrasies, and it becomes clear(er) why each interpretation of international law is seemingly allowed to stand. The article ends with some final reflections. Generally, it hopes to spark a much-needed debate by identifying a worrying trend in international law and taking a swing at offering preliminary explanations, rather than present a definitive solution. After all, if the “invisible college of international lawyers” cannot decide on the disputed legality of a State unapologetically taking out the military brass of its archenemy on the territory of a neutral country, it is difficult to see what remains of the prohibition on the use of force — the cornerstone of the Charter of the United Nations and international law more broadly.
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