Targeted Killings

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Was the Killing of Osama bin Laden Lawful?

Yes. I wouldn’t say beyond any doubt, but for practical purposes very nearly so. As I’ve argued before, there are three bodies of law (potentially) relevant for assessing the legality of a targeted killing: the jus ad bellum, IHL, and human rights law. As for the jus ad bellum, it is unclear at this time whether the Pakistani government – parts of whose security apparatus undoubtedly harboured and protected OBL – consented to the use of force by the US on Pakistani soil. The Pakistani government has not yet publicly expressed its views on the matter; all things considered, however, it seems such consent was given. If it was not, then the US would have to argue self-defense in killing OBL, which is of course a complex question. At any rate, it is for Pakistan to raise a jus ad bellum issue, and it does not seem at all politically likely that they will now say, oh yes, we’ve been hiding OBL for years now, but the US had no right to violate our sovereignty. As…

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More on Drones, Self-Defense, and the Alston Report on Targeted Killings

First off, some personal news - I am very happy to report that I will be taking up a lectureship at the University of Nottingham School of Law starting this September. It's a truly excellent school, with some wonderful colleagues, and I do look forward to working there. Now, on to business: The whole Gaza flotilla affair has occupied so…

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Harold Koh on Targeted Killings

Professor Harold Koh, the Legal Adviser of the US State Department had a keynote speech on Thursday at the ASIL conference in which he for the first time articulated the Obama administration’s legal rationale for its policy of targeted killings, e.g. by drone attacks in Pakistan. As predicted in many quarters, he basically argued that (1) the US is in…

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Drones and Targeted Killings: Can Self-Defense Preclude Their Wrongfulness?

Ken Anderson has an excellent, very interesting post regarding the US strategy of using drones for targeted killings of suspected terrorists in Pakistan and elsewhere (a topic we've addressed at the blog before). He argues that, as a matter of both law and policy, the current justification of the US government for its targeted killing practices is insufficient,…

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The Wikipedia Approach to Reality

I was reading the news today, and was again struck for the umpteenth time by the ease with which people slip into what I now like to call the Wikipedia approach to reality - a phenomenon that I'm sure psychologists have defined in a much more sophisticated way as some form of cognitive bias or another. Take a look at…

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