Photo Credit: Doran
Part One available here
Guest Post by: Arthad Kurlekar & Arindrajit Basu
In the previous post, we discussed the legal implications of the recently declassified Presidential Policy Guidelines (PPG) in terms of its conformity with the distinction principle in International Humanitarian Law (IHL). It has been argued that the rise of transnational terrorism itself has altered the contours of the Laws of Armed Conflict and thus the legal regime governing counter-measures. Nevertheless we firmly believe that the survival of a global legal order must be predicated on the guarantee of certain principles that cannot be shirked regardless of the circumstances. The principle of sovereign equality of all states, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter is one such non-derogable principle. The PPG violates the principle of sovereign equality by imposing an obligation on other states, higher than that recognised under international law and also that it violates the principle of self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter.
The justification of lethal action against High Value Targets (HVTs) who pose an imminent threat to the US also must be questioned for its violation of sovereignty. Sovereign equality mandates that states be internally bound by their domestic legal order and conform to the tenets of international law, not the laws or views of another state. Proponents of targeting argue that a state is required to curb acts of terrorism within their borders, failing which outside states, like the United States, have the power to conduct targeting in self-defense. Such an argument imposes an inequitable obligation to prevent terrorism. Under international law, this obligation extends as far as the taking all ‘practicable measures’ towards the elimination of the threat. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has confirmed this in the Bosnia Genocide Case, enunciating that the obligation is one of conduct and not of result. Professor Kimberley Trapp has argued for the evaluation of this due diligence standard on a two-pronged test, that of knowledge and capacity. So long as a state is aware of the terrorist operation and is taking reasonable steps given its resources and institutional capacity, it has not breached its obligation.