Silence is Complicity in Assassinating Humanity

Dr Rachael Rudolph

Human rights bodies have consistently warned states that their actions must conform to and operate within the boundaries of existing international legal frameworks and obligations, especially concerning the use of torture, summary executions and other acts that violate human rights norms.

[1]Despite the warning, the international community seems reluctant to take a more pro-active approach to addressing the increased use of assassinations/targeted killings by Israel and the United States. Past cases and the reluctance of Human Rights bodies to examine and condemn these governments undermine not only the regime, but also suggest an underlying political nature. It also suggests some toleration for political killings among the political elite at the international and national levels, which of course undermine democratic and human rights values that the international system and many governments are supposed to reflect, represent and support. Therefore, the continued failure of the international community to take a strong position against human rights violations such as the use of assassinations, extra-judicial killings, selected targeting and targeted killings will further undermine the human rights regime and create a “rights-free zone”[2]. Concerted action is necessary to protect humanity from continued violations and abuse of power by states, who will continue operating within a culture of impunity as long as the international community remains complicit with their silence.

Assassinations, Extra-Judicial Executions, Selected Targeting and Targeted Killings

The term used for the intentional killing of individuals for political reasons has varied over the centuries, and with those changes, there are slight alterations of their definitions. Murder of course is the first to come to mind, but that is supposedly too inhumane to describe the behavior of states. After all, their killings are done for political reasons and those killed are often political opponents in some form or fashion, whether at the national or transnational levels. From old terms such as assassinations and extra-judicial executions to the more nuanced, such as selected targeting and targeted killings, all refer to the intentional killing of an individual for political reasons, whether explicitly or implicitly ordered by a state and, covertly or overtly, carried out by the military or intelligence apparatus of that state. Just as the killings are political, so too are the definitions employed and their application. The problems associated with the political nature are further confounded by the antiquated nature of the laws and rules governing them and their use by states. Before discussing the application of the legal regimes, the definitions and their political nature will be discussed.

Assassination is illegal and considered murder by treachery of a prominent non-combatant, political figure.[3] The term non-combatant refers to an individual not taking part in hostilities; whether one is taking part or not is important, and will be discussed later. Consensus on an accepted definition for assassination does not exist, but there are two general categorical types -those occurring during times of peace and those in times of war.[4] These categorical distinctions correspond to the two international legal frameworks, which will be discussed in the next section. In times of peace, three elements must be met in order for it to be considered an assassination. These are: the intentional and premeditated killing of an individual; the individual was specifically targeted; and, the motive was political in nature. The latter is interpreted to mean the targeted individual is a political or public figure. It should be noted that the determination of who is a political or public figure is determined more often than not by states. Murder of a private person can also be considered an assassination if it was carried out for political reasons and treacherous means were used. An act is only treacherous if there is a breach of confidence.[5] In times of war, the political component is eliminated. Thus, the murder must consist of the targeting of an individual and use of treacherous means.

Extra-judicial killing is defined as the unlawful and deliberate killing carried out by order of a government with acquiescence.[6] These killings take place outside of a judicial framework and are used as an alternative to apprehending individuals and bringing them to justice. It should be noted that this definition is not applicable to summary executions, which are shoot-to-kill on the spot incidents. They too are extra-legal and occur outside of a legal framework. Designation of killings as extra-judicial implies the applicability of the law enforcement model or the International Human Rights Law regime rather than the International Humanitarian Law regime.[7] The application of these two regimes is important for the political debate and legitimacy of the actions carried out by states. Under the human rights regime, any intentional use of lethal force is not justified due to the right to life.

Selective targeting is the more nuanced term used, but it is being discussed prior to targeted killing because it flows alphabetically and the latter term will be used in conjunction throughout the rest of the paper to refer to the tactics herein examined. Selective targeting is defined as an act designed to prevent acts of “terrorism” in progress; that is, when a “terrorist” is on his or her way to an attack.[8] Selective targeting is considered legitimate and permitted by customary international law, provided the criteria of necessity and proportionality are present.[9] Necessity is the presence of clear and present danger of an enemy, whereas proportionality is the non-excessive use of force. For necessity, there can be no other means available and the aim of using force must be future oriented; thus excluded are attacks the aims of which are punitive or retaliatory.[10]

Difficulty exists over weighing proportionality between civilian life and military objectives. Thus, there is flexibility for states to maneuver. Under international law, the use of lethal force is no more than necessary to defend persons whose lives are in danger.[11] Defensive measures must not exceed the degree of force needed to achieve the purpose of using counter-force, namely defending against future attacks. Force is indiscriminate if it may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.[12] Finally, it should be noted that the use of selected targeting is for pre-emption, which of course is only legitimate if necessity and proportionality are present.

Targeted killing is the most common term used to explain the tactic that is being frequently and more overtly employed by states. Like assassination and terrorism, there is no agreed upon definition of what actually constitutes a targeted killing. Metzer (2008) defines it as “the use of lethal force attributable to a subject of international law, with the intention, premeditation and deliberation to kill individually selected persons, who are not in the physical custody of those doing the targeting.”[13] Zilinskas and Declerck (2008) define it as “the premeditated killing of a specific target suspected of terrorism, with explicit or implicit government approval.” Waisberg (2009) defines it as the “deliberate extermination of the leaders of guerilla groups and international terrorist organizations in asymmetric warfare between states and irregular forces, even if carried out inside the territory of foreign sovereign states, where such leaders may find safe haven.”[14] Targeted killing is generally illegal when carried out arbitrarily, with the only exception being when the use of force is necessary for the self-defense of another.[15] The US and Israel have also used the Right of self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter to justify their use of force,[16] lethal force, in response to acts carried out by non-state actors.[17] Their use of this is problematic because it is only applicable in conflicts between states and not with non-state actors.[18] Arab states and Non-Aligned Movement Members argue that states are entitled to the right of self-defense in the case of attacks carried out by other states, which is consistent with existing international law.[19] Disparities over perceptions, which the debate over the definitions demonstrates, reveal a fundamental disagreement over the morality and legality and on the legal regime by which that legality should be judged.[20]

Dueling Regimes: Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law

Used by opponents and proponents alike when discussing assassinations, targeted killings and extra-judicial executions are discussed within two international legal frameworks, namely international human rights law and international humanitarian law regimes.[21] The former is a law enforcement model whereas the latter is an armed conflict model. In armed conflict, international humanitarian law is supposed to regulate targeted killings whereas human rights law is to regulate such behavior in the absence of conflict. The law enforcement model emphasizes a state of normalcy and peace, while the armed conflict model emphasizes a state of emergency and conflict.[22]

Under the law enforcement model, there are several principles. First, every individual benefits from the presumption of innocence. Second, persons suspected of perpetrating or planning to carry out criminal acts should be arrested, detained, interrogated and afforded due process under the law. Third, if there is credible evidence that persons were involved in the planning, promoting, aiding and betting or carrying out “terrorist” activities, then they should be afforded a fair trial by a competent and independent court, and if convicted, sentenced by the court to a punishment provided by law.[23]

Under armed conflict, the only legitimate aim of force is to weaken the military potential of the enemy.[24] Attacking an individual is deemed permissible if they are legitimate targets and not executed by treacherous means.[25] Targets must contribute to a military objective and have a definite military advantage.[26] Killing someone not engaged in activity, but who is spending time with family does not constitute a military advantage. While the definition of treachery was given in the above section, it should be noted here that the problem with the use of targeted killings today, which will be demonstrated by the Israeli case in the next section, is that they do not fit the traditional legal definition and are in fact treacherous in nature.

Targeted killings today are also different from the past in that more often than not military equipment is used, and the operation is deemed military or intelligence related.[27] Use of military equipment, whether unmanned recognizance planes, helicopters, jets or tanks eliminates or reduces the loss of life on the side using such equipment.[28] There has been little treatment in the literature on the use of aerial bombings to carrying out targeted killings.[29] The argument is that use of other means such as door-to-door tactics are too costly. Use of military equipment and tactics such as targeted killings remove humanity from war. Making war or conflict robot-like or computer-game oriented may appear neat, clean and more humane to the observer from afar, but it is actually more inhumane than the use of suicide or martyrdom operations. It is easier to press a button in a plane than it is to pull the release for the belt strapped to one’s chest. The man/woman in the plane does not see his or her target up close, so he or she has no opportunity to feel a sense of loss or regret whereas the man or woman that pulls the belt strapped to his or her chest has those moments. Moreover, the man or woman carrying out the operation is also taking his or her own life. The person in the plane is more comfortable, as he or she knows his or her life will not be taken. Use of targeted killings today, and the means by which they are carried out, result in the detaching of human nature indeed conscience from the act of war, thereby making it cold, calculated and inhumane. People hear of but do not see the brutality of the state’s actions, which makes it easy to dismiss or to remain aloof and desensitized. Witnessing, whether by social media or traditional foreign media outlets or reading the narrative of those who have just lost their mother, father, son or daughter by the bomb that dropped from the plane above brings another dimension to the reality of warfare and the human rights violations being committed by state actors, who are using legal instruments to justify their behavior.

The problem with both the law enforcement and armed conflict models is their failure to protect non-state actors. The US, which follows closely the line taken by its ally Israel, argues that since there are not two states involved and because the conflict is non-international due to it not being confined to the territory of one state, then the Geneva Convention and additional Protocols are not applicable. Furthermore, the US argues that non-state actors lack combatant status because they are not parties to a state, or members of the military of a state, and because they fail to have a fixed emblem that distinguishes them from civilians.[30] The problem with this argument is that many armed resistance groups, who are designated as “terrorist” groups by state actors, do wear fixed emblems when engaging in hostilities against the state. It was easy for states to make such a claim in the past, but technology and social media have made it such that the political nature of their argument has become quite evident. Individuals having thus been branded as unprotected and subjected to targeting by the state anywhere and at anytime has severe implications that global public opinion is not taking into consideration.

Actors can be, are being, and have been in the past easily deemed an enemy of the state or so-called terrorists because of their calls for and support of political change. Look at what is taking place inside the US, with the arrest of anti-war activists and the passage of law permitting the government to assassinate its own citizens abroad if they are suspected of being engaged in so-called acts of terrorism. Due process and democratic values are being replaced by the rules and values of an authoritarian state and their related non-civilian courts. It should be recognized that other states have not adopted the legal arguments or behavior of the US and Israel, but their silence does have severe implications for the human rights regime.[31] Israel and the US adoption and use of the armed conflict model for dealing with non-state actors, but at the same time denying them protection, opens up the possibility of limitless and unending war and even more egregious human rights violations against those they deem their foe.[32]

Non-state actors are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, who are members of organizations and political parties. They are human beings who operate in a world no longer dominated and dictated by state actors; they co-exist in a multidimensional world, where state and non-state actors alike are struggling to find their political voice and for the protection of their political, social, human and economic rights. They, however, have limited protection under international law and those laws in existence are state-centric which protect state rights and power, even when it comes to their violation and abuse. Like states, non-state actors become legitimate targets when they are engaging in hostilities against a state.[33] Despite the argument waged by Israel and the US, this does not imply that one may be targeted at any time and anywhere, especially if one is not immediately engaged in hostilities. If one ceases engaging in hostilities, even if only between operations, they enjoy protection as civilians.[34] There is no common definition existing on what constitutes taking part in hostilities, however. Under international law, hostilities or hostile acts are those designed to cause harm to the personnel and equipment of armed forces. Only direct participation warrants one becoming a legitimate target under existing international law.[35] Indirect participation involves acts that are non-violent in nature. Individuals engaged indirectly are not legitimate targets for targeted killings. This, however, has not stopped Israel or the US. These states have used the membership argument to justify their targeting of individuals, especially when they cannot demonstrate their direct participation in hostilities. Membership in a group does not imply one is taking part in hostilities.[36]

Legal scholars opposed to the liberal interpretation of existing international law argue that a person not directly and immediately engaged in hostilities deserve civilian protection, which means that the law enforcement model becomes applicable. There are two doctrinal approaches to interpreting the legal regimes; they are restrictive and liberal.[37] The latter provides states more wiggle room to justify use of targeted killings, and it is that which is used by Israel and the US to interpret international treaties, conventions and customary law to justify their human rights violations. However, legal scholars supporting the use of targeted killings also argue that non-state actors involved in hostilities do enjoy some protection as either combatants or civilians. To deny any sort of protection to non-state actors is a gross violation of human rights.

There used to be a clear demarcation in the applicability of the two legal regimes,[38] but the rise of non-state actors and state engagement with them have blurred the lines, leaving many unprotected and their rights forsaken by states. States keen on using targeted killings, other states that want to reserve the potential to engage in such practices in the future, and non-state actors who support state use of such tactics because it rids them of their political opponents argue for the applicability of the international humanitarian law regime or the armed conflict model, as it is the only one that provides a gray area for their potential legality. All, however, concur that both legal regimes are inadequate to address what is taking place. Consequently, some have begun focusing more on the normative nature.

Underlying both the law enforcement model and the Human Rights Law regime is the balancing of the collective interest in enforcing public security, law and order against the conflicting interest in protecting individual rights and liberties.[39] Normatively, Melzer argues, both paradigms are applicable in today’s conflicts and situations, where transnational actors operate across borders. Many have begun attempting to bridge the gap between the two regimes by consolidating the models both in terms of norms and application, suggesting that the principle of military necessity prohibits the employment of any kind or degree of force which is not indispensable for the achievement of the ‘ends of war.’[40] Targeted killings thus become an option in the absence of other means.

The continuing debate over the application of the antiquated legal regimes is therefore political, and absent there from is morality. The right to life is an inherent and universal right, irrespective of the actor and his or her activities, and should be protected. There must be a concrete, imminent threat for there to be any sort of legitimacy for the deprivation of life.[41] Taking of one’s life should be a means of last resort. Furthermore, the respect for and of life follow regardless of whether an individual is in a state to which he or she does not belong, even if there is an on-going conflict.[42] Laws exist to regulate and to prevent against the abuse of this right by the state, and states that are signatories to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) are prohibited from engaging in extra-judicial killings. States who are also signatories thereto may (and should) be responsible for their failure to prevent, investigate and punish human rights violations on their territory. The problem is that the increased use of targeted killings blurs the lines of morality and opens the opportunity for state abuse of this power, which of course is demonstrated by Israel’s policy of targeted killings against Palestinians, who are struggling for the internationally recognized legal right to self-determination.

Israel’s Policy of Targeted Killings

Israel has employed assassinations/targeted killings since “biblical times through the 1948 war, the 1967 war to current times.”[43] In the 1950s, they were supposedly used to thwart attacks from Egypt; in the 1960s, they were supposedly used to prevent German scientists from developing missiles capable of reaching Israel from Egypt; and, beginning in the 1970s and continuing to the present, they are supposedly used to target Palestinians deemed by the Israeli government as “terrorists.”[44] The Israeli government authorized the policy of targeted killings following the 1972 Olympic Games.[45] From 1970s to 2000, Israel’s policy of targeted killings was used less overtly and albeit sparingly than that which occurred with the start of the second Intifada. According to B’Tselem, an Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, from the period of 2000 to 2011, there were 412 Palestinians civilians killed during the course of a targeted killing; there were 242 Palestinians who were the object of a targeted killing; and, 2,999 Palestinians who did not take part in the hostilities but were killed by Israeli forces (this figure does not include those who were the object of targeted killings). Thus, the year 2000 marks a turning point in Israel’s policy of targeted killing.[46]

Searching for Legitimacy and Shifting Legal Regimes

Israel argues that targeted killings are necessary because of the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to arrest those carrying out attacks; second, pinpoint strikes are necessary because there is no other alternative; third, strikes are proportional, as killing one is proportional to the death and destruction that will be averted; fourth, attack/response must occur close in time to an imminent threat or attack, with recognition of a lag time; and, finally, actions qualify as defensive armed reprisals because they are employed to prevent future attacks and thus serve a deterrent function.[47] There is never any evidence provided for the so-called imminent nature of an attack.[48] Tactics, according to Gordon (2006), are used and meant to punish movements for both past and planned activities. It is illegal to use targeted killings to punish for past acts, as will be recalled from the legal discussion in the above section. Moreover, as Gross (2003) points out, targeted killing elicit attacks.

Due to the use of targeted killings eliciting attacks, Israel argues that they are deemed acceptable and cost effective in the long-term because of the decline of suicide or martyrdom operations. The argument that targeted killings are effective because they reduce the use of martyrdom operations is problematic and demonstrates a lack of understanding of their use. As targeted killings used to be, suicide or martyrdom operations are used sparingly because of the political and social capital expended. Groups employ them strategically and only when necessary. Moreover, they are not mindless operations, as they require a significant amount of planning and the individuals carrying them out must be strong and sound of mind. This type of operation is quite different from that which is carried out by the person pushing the button in an aircraft or in an operation room. There are definitely policy differences among groups that employ these tactics, however. A discussion on the policy or the strategic use of martyrdom operations is not in the purview of this paper. Finally, it should be noted that many of the targeted killings carried out are retributive, vengeful or done for harassment and serve no strategic purpose; and, there is a lack of an independent investigation into them when they occur.[49]

Israel also claims to incorporate several ethical considerations into the implementation of its policy of killing.[50] First, innocent civilians should not be targeted or become victims. As will be recalled from the statistics provided by B’Tselem, 412 Palestinians civilians were killed during the course of a targeted killing between 2000 to the present. Second, bystanders should receive early warning. No warning was given for the 412 civilians killed. There was also no warning given when the Israelis drones fired missiles at a funeral that led to the assassination of Mazen Asaad Ad-Dash on January 14, 2009.[51] Third, the time and place chosen should result in minimum collateral damage. Fourth, targeting a person should be a means of last resort and no other viable option can be present. Fifth, proportionality, necessity and self-defense guide action. Sixth, the act should not be treacherous. There was definitely a breach of confidence when Saber Mohammed Abu Asi was riding in a car with his friends when it was blown to pieces, killing him and injuring those on the streets.[52] Actions, according to Gross (2003), may no longer be treacherous because of how the definition has evolved, but they are in a different sense. They are treacherous because of their reliance on collaborators and traitors. Collaborators and traitors serve the purpose of spreading confusion and undermining collective self-confidence within Palestinian society. Targeted killings thus subvert integrity, trust, honor and loyalty, thereby making the tactics employed by Israel treacherous.

Prior to Oslo and subsequent agreements, there is no question regarding the illegality of all targeted killings carried out by Israel.[53] This is because during that period the legal framework was the law enforcement model. The accords, Kretzner argues, changed the nature of the situation, but only in the parts of the occupied Palestinian territories that were under Palestinian control. The problem with the argument was that Israel maintained security control over who could enter and exit the areas, thus making areas of self-control occupied and the law enforcement model applicable. The application of the law enforcement model makes the targeted killings illegal and contrary to international law. This is because they are not used as a means of last resort and the intentional thwarting of due process.

At the beginning of second the Intifada, Israel redefined the legal situation, declaring it armed-conflict short of war, which thereby initiated the armed conflict model.[54] At first Israel attempted to justify the policy from a law enforcement perspective.[55] It was rejected, so Israel adopted the armed conflict model to justify its practice. The model shift was also intentional because it meant Israel was no longer responsible for infrastructure damages caused by carrying out these operations.[56] Under its application of the armed conflict model, danger is examined by the group to which the person belongs and not on the threat posed by that particular individual.[57] International law, as discussed in the above section, rejects the membership argument. The legal arguments made are not founded in or consistent with international law. The Israeli court, however, found that there is nothing in Israeli law when looking at the legal grounds upon which targeted killings are based.[58] Israel, David (2003) argues, does need a policy of transparency and civilian oversight, which has always been and continues to be lacking.

A lack of civilian oversight can be attributable to public opinion. Public debate in Israel over the use of targeted killings was sparked by international condemnation over the Jenin case in 2002.[59] It should be recognized though that there is only worldwide condemnation when a large number of civilians have been targeted; otherwise, silence pervades.[60] The silence may also be in part because after 2000 the targeted killings became routine. Routinization desensitizes the public, especially the way in which they are framed in the media.

In a study conducted by Gordon (2004), it was demonstrated how Israeli media helped produce, disseminate and reinforce both the rationality and morality of targeted killings. In particular, the media helped to create a narrative that exonerated the Israeli government from accusations that it committed an unlawful act. The media has dehumanized Palestinians by presenting them as mere numbers and statistics and the loss of their lives as worthless; their homes were described as military barracks and weapons factories; and, Palestinian, international and Israeli peace protesters were filmed from an Israeli government perspective. It should be recognized that the media are players in an environment that is defined by a web of power relations and a product of states’ rationalization process. The Israeli media strategy used for targeted killings is to link the targeted persons to a series of attacks; a time lapse occurs between articles to conceal the repetitious character of the allegations; and, adjectives are used repetitively to describe the responsibility of the person killed. Incarceration also plays a role in the narrative, with the binary creating a parallel to execution and thus justification. The linkages thereby made are intentional, targeting a particular audience and serving a political objective, namely to exonerate Israel for intentionally killing Palestinians.

The international community’s acceptance and unquestioning of Israel’s model shift had serious implications for how targeted killings and other acts of treachery are received during the conflict.[61] This became worse following the US adoption of the tactics and Israel’s argument of justification. Irrespective of time and space, according to Gross, there is one moral principle that should be upheld—soldiers must feel safe among civilians if civilians are ever to feel safe among soldiers. The use of targeted killings erodes this principle. Furthermore, the use of targeted killings opens Pandora’s Box. A legitimate argument could be made by resistance for its adoption of a policy of the targeted killing of Israeli leaders and soldiers. Resistance, however, has taken the higher road of morality and not employed such tactics. Targeted killings of non-state actors must stop before there is a further erosion of human rights, and the only way there will be an end to their use is through the mobilization of a global campaign.

Mobilizing for a Global Coalition to End Assassinations/Targeted Killings, Extra-judicial Executions and Selective Targeting

The issue of targeted killings remains relevant in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict not only because of their continued use, but also because of the potential for their increase due to the recent changes in the leadership of Israeli intelligence. It is also important because the US seems to be increasing its use of targeted killings. Finally, in a larger context, the use of targeted killings challenges the morality and law upon which the international system is built; and, it is contrary to the essence of democracy, the spirit of humanity, and the respect for human rights and the right to life. States and their supporters are likely to argue that there should be no respect given for the life of another, who willingly engages in so-called terrorism. However, global public opinion should keep in mind the oft-quoted phrase: one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. From the dawn of humanity to the present, governing entities have regularly denounced their foes and opponents as so-called terrorists.

The fight against oppression, repression and suppression have led many non-state actors and movements to adopt violent resistance, especially in the absence or rather failure of other non-violent means to bring about justice and a respect for humanity and the human rights of others. The debate on the legitimacy and morality of the use of violent and non-violent resistance in the pursuit of political ends, human rights, and the applicability of international law in the struggle for self-determination will be saved for another day. However, it will be noted that there is recognition of the right to engage in resistance to end occupation and to seek self-determination. Engaging in resistance and targeting a political, quasi-political or individual is a separate, even if interdependent, legal and moral debate. The heart of the debate pertaining to which was discussed herein was the legality and morality of targeting killings; that is, the intentional killing of non-state actors by states for political ends.

Increased use of targeted killings by states, namely Israel and the United States, erodes morality and the legality of the international system. The laws that exist to govern relations in the international system are antiquated and fail to protect non-state actors from the abuse of power and human rights violations committed by states. It is truly worrisome when states like the US violate human rights, international norms, and democratic values. While it may be no surprise that Israel has continued to behave as such, but it is atrocious that the international community has failed to hold it accountable for its intentional targeting of Palestinians, who have an internationally recognized legal right to self-determination and to resist occupation. Failure to condemn and the continuation of the silence over the increasing use of targeted killings by both Israel and the US imply that we are all complicit in assassinating humanity.

To prevent against the further degradation of humanity, we must mobilize to bring morality back into the frameworks and laws governing relations. The existing legal frameworks must be revised to provide adequate protection, as the world in which we are currently living is multi-dimensional and inhabited by both state and non-state actors. In the absence of greater protections, there will be greater human rights violations. The global community of concerned humanitarians must pressure their governments and existing international bodies to condemn and take action against state violations of human rights. No longer can we continue permitting this culture of impunity to exist. Each time there is a violation there should be mobilization in the form of calls, petitions and protests. Concerning targeted killings, criteria determining the reasonableness of the belief that a threat exists must be established. Second, there needs to be the development of a legal framework governing state and non-state actors engaged in both peace and conflict. Third, modifications of past international legal frameworks and laws and the development new ones providing greater protection for non-state actors are necessary. Fourth, an international or independent tribunal needs to be constituted to review all targeted killings immediately after they occur. Finally, the systematic nature of Israel’s use of targeted killings should be investigated and rulings made on whether their systematic use constitutes a crime against humanity. The failure of humanity to act will continue to promote injustice and prevent justice from prevailing.

Dr Rudolph is Head of International Relations for Facilitate Global.  She can be contacted at

[1]Fitzpatrick, J. (2003). “Speaking Law to Power: The War Against Terrorism and Human Rights,” The European Journal of International Law, 14:2.

[2]Fitzpatrick supra note 1.

[3]Gordon, A. (2006). “’Purity of Arms,’ ‘Preemptive War,’ and ‘Selective Targeting’ in the Context of Terrorism: General, Conceptual and Legal Analyses,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 29.

[4]Zilinskas, J. and W. Declerck (2008). “Targeted Killing Under International Law,” Jurisprudencija.

[5]Gordon supra note 3.

[6]Zilinskas and Declerck supra note 4.

[7]Kretzner, D. (2005). “Targeted Killing of Suspected Terrorists: Extrajudicial Executions or Legitimate Means of Defense?” The European Journal of International Law, 16:2.

[8]Gordon (2006) does not use quotation marks for “terrorism” or “terrorist.” Their quotation in this article is due to my philosophical opposition to the political use of these terms. No agreed upon definitions of terrorism and a terrorist exist. Furthermore, state designation of political groups and their actions as such also lack objectivity. Moreover, the policies employed do not get at the root causes of the use of political violence by non-state actors. The policies exacerbate the use of violence. Until there is realization of this and the implementation of better policies at both the international and national levels, political violence by non-state actors will continue, and justifiably so.

[9]Gordon supra note 3

[10]Kretzner supra note 7



[13]Metzer, N. (2008). Targeted Killing in International Law, Oxford: OUP.

[14]Waisberg, T. (2009). “The Columbia-Ecuador Armed Crisis of March 2008,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 32.

[15]Ratner, S. (2007). “Predator & Prey,” The Journal of Political Philosophy, 15:3.

[16]Waisberg supra note 14.


[18]Kretzner supra note 7.

[19]Zilinskas and Declerck supra note 4.

[20]Kretzner supra note 7.


[22]Ratner supra note 15.

[23]Kretzner supra note 7


[25]Gordon supra note 3

[26]Zilinskas and Declerck supra note 4.

[27]Ratner supra note 15.

[28]Gordon supra note 3

[29]Melzer supra note 13.

[30]Zilinskas and Declerck supra note 4.

[31]Fitzpatrick supra note 1.

[32]Ratner supra note 15.

[33]Zilinskas and Declerck supra note 4.

[34]Kretzner supra note 7.



[37]Melzer supra note 13.

[38]All the existing literature on the subject, beginning in 2001 and continuing to the present, agree that the distinction between the two legal regimes is no longer clear, which is a result of state use of these tactics against non-state actors and the increasing role-played by non-state actors in international relations. This had led many to propose some sort of mixed model, which of course is rejected by states, namely Israel and the United States.

[39]Melzer supra note 13.


[41]Kretzner supra note 7


[43]Gordon supra note 3

[44]Waisberg supra note 14.

[45]Gross, M. (2003). “Fighting by Other Means in the Middle East,” Political Studies, 51.


[47]Kendall, J. (2001-2002). “Israeli Counter-Terrorism: Targeted Killings Under International Law,” HeinOnline.

[48]Gross supra note 45.


[50]Gordon supra note 3

[51]Ezzedine AlQassam Information Office


[53]Kretzner supra note 7


[55]Gross supra note 45.


[57]Kretzner supra note 7

[58]David, S. (2003). “If not Combatants, Certainly Not Civilians,” Ethics and International Affairs.

[59]Gordon supra note 3

[60]Waisberg supra note 14.

[61]Gross supra note 45.

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