Targeted Killing

Ashgate Research Companion to Military Ethics (2015 Forthcoming)

Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-287

17 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2014 Last revised: 27 Mar 2015

Date Written: March 1, 2014


Targeted killing has become a frequently used and highly controversial tool of operational counterterrorism. This chapter analyzes the international law applicable to targeted killing, both during armed conflict and as a tool of offensive counterterrorism outside of armed conflict. In particular, this discussion highlights key legal and policy debates regarding: the authority to use lethal force, the identification of legitimate targets and enemy personnel, the consequences of civilian participation in such strikes, and the nature and parameters of the rules governing the conduct of strikes. Beyond the legal issues, the practice of targeted killing also raises significant questions regarding the appropriate measures of transparency and accountability that should be provided regarding the legal authority for strikes and the civilian harm caused.

Keywords: targeted killing, drones, UAVs, international humanitarian law, law of war, law of armed conflict, self-defense, counterterrorism, distinction, proportionality, precautions

Suggested Citation

Blank, Laurie R., Targeted Killing (March 1, 2014). Ashgate Research Companion to Military Ethics (2015 Forthcoming), Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-287, Available at SSRN:

Laurie R. Blank (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-712-1711 (Phone)


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