May 31, 2013 (TSR) – Targeted killing by unmanned planes may violate international humanitarian law, a legal expert argues in a recent report.
Leila Sadat, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, also questions whether it promotes US interests abroad.
Drone strikes have become a major part of US military strategy and counterterror operations, but Sadat writes in an article published in the Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law that the US use of drones raises several troubling legal questions: What is the legal foundation for government use of lethal force and whether drone strikes are considered acts of aggression against other countries?
She finds that the Obama administration largely continued the policy and legal rationale of former President George W. Bush regarding drones.
The US argues there are no geographical constraints in the war on terror, Sadat writes, but adds that most authorities reject that idea.
“The process used by the executive branch to determine who and when to target human beings for death can be summarized in two words: ‘trust us,’” she writes.
But while she believes the administration is cautious, mistakes still can occur and innocent civilians get killed, raising legal, political and diplomatic worries for the US.
“Some of these ‘mistakes’ end up as YouTube videos . . . which serve as recruitment devices for al-Qaeda and its associates, and fuel anti-American sentiment in areas where drones are operating,” Sadat notes.
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