Targeted killings: Contemporary challenges, risks and opportunities

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10 Citations (Scopus)


The use of drones and other forms of targeted killings are being increasingly criticized at the international and domestic level. Before the backdrop of the most recent news that the United Nations has launched an inquiry into the overall legality of such a method of warfare and counterterrorism and its associated loss of civilian life, this article aims to give an overview on targeted killings as a means of warfare. The article asks what constitutes targeted killing and what distinguishes it from assassinations. It reflects on the safeguards, which are necessary to ensure the legality of the targeting process. This article further introduces the reader to an updated account of the use of Unmanned Combat Aircraft Systems, or 'drones', in targeted killings, employed as a means of warfare by the USA in its 'War on Terror'. The US drone campaign in Pakistan also raises questions in respect to State Sovereignty and potential violations of this central tenet of International Law. The article will also touch upon another field of global security, so called 'Hybrid Threats', where the use of targeted killing may have an operational military benefit as part of a holistic counterstrategy. It concludes with a sobering warning that while targeted killing operations may be an effective means of achieving short-term tactical goals within the scope of a wider operational objective, the unregulated and increased use of targeting killings by the USA in the 'War on Terror' would be both immoral as well as illegal in the long run.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-288
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Conflict and Security Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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