States of Exception: Regulating Targeted Killing in a Global Civil War
26 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2010
Date Written: March 18, 2010
This paper reviews the way that “the global war on terror” destabilizes legal categories regulating the scope of legitimate violence in international human rights law and international humanitarian law, through the prism of the targeted killings of terrorist suspects who are outside the territory of the state using force. The intentional use of lethal force against a specific individual takes on different legal complexions, depending on whether it is viewed through the frame of reference of international humanitarian law (IHL) or international human rights (IHR).
I explore this question by considering the proposition that IHL applies as lex specialis to IHR during armed conflict, and asking how we might understand this. I argue that while the notion of lex specialis is theoretically appealing because of its apparent conceptual neatness, it provides no concrete guidance as to the determinate content of the rules governing the targeted killing of terrorist suspects, and that attempts at application in fact problematize the notion of a lex specialis relation between IHL and IHR. I contend that there are no clear conceptual-logical bases to decide which of these frameworks is properly applied to the targeted killing of terrorist suspects, and thus that transparent political and policy choices must be made.
Keywords: Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, Targeted Killing, War on Terror
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