International law

DRONE WATCH: Changing the Nature of War

Tom Roberts in the National Catholic Reporter, writes on questions raised by the rapidly growing use of unpiloted drones.

“Each expansion of drone use magnifies the concerns of the legal and human rights communities about whether the United States is dangerously pressing the limits of -- or even violating -- international law. Just as worrisome, experts say, is whether the increasing use of drones in such circumstances will slowly erode the force of international law, rendering it ineffective.”

DRONE WATCH: The Legal Battle Against Drone Strikes.

Notre Dame law professor Mary Ellen O'Connell, Professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School, has been fighting against drones since the first CIA drone strike in 2002. The Los Angeles Times has a story calling her “a fierce critic of America's drone attacks outside a war zone,” and writing about her insistence that the targeted killings are illegal under international law.

"We wouldn't accept or want a world in which Russia or China or Iran is claiming authority to kill alleged enemies of the state based on secret evidence of the executive branch alone," O'Connell said. "And yet that's the authority we're asserting."

DRONE WATCH: When are Drone Killings Illegal?

Efforts to bring the rule of law to killing are not always easy or clear cut. Although as an advocate of non-violence, I can condemn all killing; whether killing in a conflict is “legal” or not depends on the circumstances in which it occurs. International law does not prohibit all taking of life.

Mary Ellen O'Connell, a law professor and research professor of international dispute resolution at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, is a specialist on the international law of armed conflict. In a column on CNN, she explains that under international law, killing enemy fighters during an armed conflict – a war – is legal. Outside of war, it generally is not, the human right of life prevails. Although this “dual standard for justifiable killing makes the law protecting the right to life more complicated,” it is how international law assesses violent conflicts.

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