MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: LEGAL REFLECTIONS ON THE UNITED STATES ‘DRONES PLAYBOOK’:PART I

 

drones

Photo Credit: Doran

Guest Post by: Arthad Kurlekar & Arindrajit Basu

INTRODUCTION

On August 7th of this year, the Obama Administration finally declassified its internal guidelines (referred to as Presidential Policy Guidance’ or ‘PPG’), which supposedly details the United States’ parameters on the killing or capturing of alleged terrorists around the globe. The document provides some insight into the drone war bureaucracy leading to strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Despite redactions at crucial junctures in the document, it ostensibly answers many questions posed by the global community regarding the lawfulness of these clandestine programs. A closer look, however, shows that the document largely plays implicit lip-service to principles of International Law without providing concrete evidence that illustrates how this normative framework is implemented in the decision-making process. In a two-part post, we seeks to deconstruct and analyze the lacunae in this document with reference to lethal targeting by considering two key principles of International Law: (1) The Principle of Distinction and (2) Sovereign Equality. The first post deals with distinction while the analysis on sovereign equality is left for the second post. We argue that the PPG fails on two counts: first it fails to provide a nuanced classification of the targets in accordance with IHL and second, it fails to operationalise IHL principles when carrying out targeted killings.

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