Top Pro & Con Arguments


Secretive drone strikes amount to extrajudicial assassination and violate human rights.

Drone strikes are secretive, lack sufficient legal oversight, and prevent citizens from holding their leaders accountable. Drone strikes often skip steps taken by boots on the ground approaches. The Human Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School explains, “While interrogation and detention, as recent history shows all too well, carry their own risks of human rights abuses, these non-lethal approaches at least provide the opportunity for an assessment of whether targeted individuals in fact pose a threat to U.S. interests—an opportunity taken off the table by drone strikes.” [153]

The United States frequently calls drone strikes “targeted killings,” a term that does not have a definition in international law. Charli Carpenter, PhD, Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, explained, “The term was originally coined by a human rights organization to distinguish El Salvador death squads’ assassination of individuals from the squads’ wider indiscriminate killings of civilians. Both acts, Americas Watch correctly argued, violated human rights standards as well as the international laws surrounding war.” Thus, “targeted killings” are, Carpenter explained, “the extrajudicial execution of nonstate political adversaries,” or political assassination, which is “taboo in war,” banned by the 1907 Hague Convention and the 1998 Rome Statute, and is a “violation of the human right to life enshrined in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” [154]

UN Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions Agnès Callamard tweeted in response to a Jan. 2020 drone strike, “The targeted killings of Qasem Soleimani and Abu mahdi al muhandi most likely violate international law incl human rights law. Lawful justifications for such killings are very narrowly defined and it is hard to imagine how any of these can apply to these killings.” [156]

The strikes are expecially problematic outside of declared war, when even terrorists must be arrested, tried, and convicted of a capital crime before being killed. [154]

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