On the Legality of Obama’s Drone War

In Politico, Daphne Eviator of Human Rights First, contests the Obama administration’s legal justification for a borderless, undeclared drone war in multiple countries, which is that the AUMF grants them the authority to take lethal action against al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

Though international law recognizes that a state may go to war against armed terrorist groups, that’s called a “non-international armed conflict.” Because of the difficulty of identifying the enemy, different rules apply.

In a non-international armed conflict like this, the only “enemies” targetable are those “directly participating in hostilities” against the United States, or performing a “continuous combat function” with armed groups targeting the U.S.

Her arguments are even more starkly made in the context of the now public policy of conducting “signature strikes,” that is, targeting groups of unidentified individuals.

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