Why India Continues to Stay Out of ICC?

Written by Garima Tiwari

ICC, Author Vincent van Zeijst

 

 

“We can understand the need for the International Criminal Court to step in when confronted by situations such as in former Yugoslavia or Rwanda, where national judicial structures had completely broken down. But the correct response to such exceptional situations is not that all nations must constantly prove the viability of their judicial structures or find these overridden by the ICC.” – Indian delegate said in his official statement delivered at the Diplomatic Conference.[i]

Years after the establishment of International Criminal Court (hereinafter “ICC”) India has no indication of becoming a State Party to the Statute. The establishment of the ICC came out of the need for an independent, permanent criminal court to deal with heinous crimes of international concern. India’s decision to remain out of ICC is not something of an aberrant stand it took. Even when the International Military Tribunal for the Far East was established after the surrender of Japan at the end of Second World War, Dr. Radhabinod Pal, Judge from India gave a Dissenting Judgment .He refused to be bound by the charges brought against the defendants by the Prosecution. Consequently, Justice Pal declared the accused Japanese leaders innocent of all charges. [ii] This dissenting judgment of Justice Radhabinod Pal at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East) is of unique importance in the history of international law as a new interpretation of contemporary (i.e. history of the pre-second World War era) history of international events.[iii] Under the Charters of the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals, radical changes were made in the definitions of international laws. These tribunals made definitions of new offenses and held individuals in power responsible for perpetrating such offenses. Justice Radhabinod Pal from India, however, refused to be carried by such an innovation. Justice R.B. Pal, however, vehemently opposed the changing concepts of international law.  In his judgment, he made a critical and detailed study of the status of international law in the first half of the twentieth century and argued that international law could not be changed by mere ipse dixit (dogmatic pronouncement) of the authors of the Charter in question.[iv]

At the time of the drafting of the Rome Statute, some of the fundamental objections given by Indian delegates in their opposition to the Court relate to the perceived role of the UN Security Council and its referral power. India has therefore, not signed and raitifed the statute. As mentioned by Mr. Lahiri, the principal objections of India to the Rome Statute have been the following:  [v]

  1. Made the ICC subordinate to the UN Security Council, and thus in effect to its permanent members, and their political interference, by providing it the power to refer cases to the ICC and the power to block ICC proceedings.
  2. Provided the extraordinary power to the UN Security Council to bind non-States Parties to the ICC ; this violates a fundamental principle of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties that no state can be forced to accede to a treaty or be bound by the provisions of a treaty it has not accepted.
  3. Blurred the legal distinction between normative customary law and treaty obligations, particularly in respect of the definitions of crimes against humanity and their applicability to internal conflicts, placing countries in a position of being forced to acquiesce through the Rome Statutes to provisions of international treaties they have not yet accepted.
  4. Permitted no reservations or opt-out provisions to enable countries to safeguard their interests if placed in the above situation.
  5. Inappropriately vested wide competence and powers to initiate investigations and trigger jurisdiction of the ICC in the hands of an individual prosecutor.
  6. Refused to designate of the use of nuclear weapons and terrorism among crimes within the purview of the ICC, as proposed by India.[vi]

India has ratified Geneva Conventions and has even enacted Geneva Conventions Act 1960, but in practise, India has decided to overlook Common Article 3 in its special enactments, applicability and Supreme Court rulings. Moreover, it is normally and more extensively argued that at no point has the situation in India met the threshold required for the application of Common Article 3. Thus, India has not accepted the application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions to the situations prevailing in the country.

There are reports on hundreds of mass graves in Kashmir[vii]. Torture, hostage-taking, and rape have all been prominent abuses in the Kashmir conflict. Both security forces and armed militants have used rape as a weapon: to punish, intimidate, coerce, humiliate and degrade, but no we do not meet the threshold of Common Article 3.There is widespread and frequent fighting throughout Kashmir, recourse by the government to its regular armed forces, the organization of insurgents into armed forces with military commanders responsible for the actions of those forces and capable of adhering to laws of war obligations, the military nature of operations conducted on both sides, and the size of the insurgent forces and of the government’s military forces, which makes Common Article 3 is applicable to the conflict in Kashmir[viii]-but still Indian government argues that it does not meet the threshold for application of Common Article 3. This is because India has viewed the conflicts it has been beset with as domestic affairs, if above the ‘law and order’ level but certainly below that of a non-international armed conflict. As we know the definition of Non international armed conflict not having been attempted in Common Article 3, the threshold of its applicability is pitched high by domestic states. Governments are understandably reluctant because of sovereignty considerations to concede belligerency opportunities for the non-state groups who they accuse of posing an armed challenge to the state. [ix]This reluctance is despite Common Article 3 stating that its application ‘shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.’[x]

Another example is, Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 [xi]( hereinafter ‘AFSPA’), passed when  the Naga movement in the North eastern States for independence had just taken off. AFSPA has just six sections. The most damning are those in the fourth and sixth sections: the former enables security forces to “fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death” where laws are being violated. The latter says no criminal prosecution will lie against any person who has taken action under this act. While article 3 prohibits killing of innocent civilians in non-international armed conflict, AFSPA under section 4(a) gives wide ranging powers to the armed forces to use force to the extent of causing death on mere suspicion. This has occasioned the application of AFSPA without resorting to the emergency provisions that would then invite its accountability externally. In last 54 years, not a single army, or paramilitary officer or soldier has been prosecuted for murder, rape, destruction of property (including the burning of villages in the 1960s in Nagaland and Mizoram). [xii]There has been regrouping of villages in both places: villagers were forced to leave their homes at gunpoint, throw their belongings onto the back of a truck and move to a common site where they were herded together with strangers and formed new villages. It is a shameful and horrific history, which India knows little about and has cared even less for. [xiii]  There are extrajudicial executions, made emphatically in the north east region, which Government normally remains silent about. Justice Jeevan Reddy committee recommended the repeal of the AFSPA in 2005 but the findings and recommendations are buried as the government has neither taken a call on them nor made them public.[xiv]

Various reports, academic views as well as conferences, have  time and again highlighted the need for India to actually accept the common article 3 in practice. The Judiciary has failed its duty in this context by overlooking ‘judicial guarantees’ as required by the article. [xv]The situation of conflict that persists in Kashmir and the North-East explains the reasons for the state’s anxiety that this manner of violence could be referred to the ICC. Always arguing that the threshold  has not reached, India continuously evades application of Common Article 3. Some help  could have been taken from Additional Protocol II,where a lower threshold in found under Article 1(2) but India has not ratified the same. Even, the inclusion of ‘armed conflict not of an international character’ in defining ‘war crimes’ in Article 8 of the Statute for an ICC met with resistance from the Indian establishment.

There is a mild fear that if India signs Rome statue it would come under the jurisdiction of ICC under Common Article 3 and crimes against humanity during non-international armed conflict. This may be said to be a major reason for staying out of ICC since Articles 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute include such crimes, and no reservations are permitted, except the opt out provision  under Article 124 of the Statute . As Mr. Lahiri notes, “having become Party to so many human rights conventions, which requires India to submit a variety of periodic reports for UN scrutiny on domestic actions to implement these obligations, it is scarcely appropriate that India should assert impunity for the commission of the most heinous crimes imaginable in the course of combating domestic insurgencies.” [xvi] India also looks for an opt-in provision whereby a state could accept the jurisdiction of the ICC by declaration (possibly for a specified period), and this might be limited to particular conduct or to conduct committed during a particular period of time. The lack of such a provision, and the inherent jurisdiction which replaced it, are perceived as representing a violation of the consent of states, and thus a threat to sovereignty. India’s resistance to accepting the inherent jurisdiction of the ICC is explained, in part, by anxieties about how investigation, prosecution and criminal proceedings in the Indian system may be judged by an international court. Further elements giving rise to India’s misgivings are the fear that the Court might be used with political motives, the power conferred on the Prosecutor to initiate investigations proprio motu and the role allotted to the Security Council.[xvii]

Maybe in the future meetings of the ICC Assembly of Parties could well consider, for example, extending the Kampala ‘opt-out’ provisions .  Discussions on inclusion of terrorism and nuclear weapons are already taking place. [xviii]  Prosecution of Indian officers , leaders and army by ICC, is an overstretch and the jurisdiction over India under the UNSC referral process is possible even if India stays out of ICC . [xix] India should immediately ensure substantive and effective participation in ICC deliberative and negotiating bodies which it is entitled to attend as an observer. [xx] Most of the objections and concerns seem to have waned over the years. Moreover, heightened activities on the ICC in India in the past year have generated greater participation and interest from diverse constituencies including parliamentarians, academia, media and various civil society groups.[xxi]

India has been subject to international dispute settlement bodies, such as the Dispute Settlement Body of the World Trade Organization and the International Court of Justice, amongst others. State sovereignty is not compromised merely because a nation-state agrees to subject itself to an international court that can exercise jurisdiction over its officials. [xxii]Several legal provisions found in the Indian Constitution and the criminal laws of India are antecedents to many of the principles found in the Rome Statute – the presumption of innocence, principle of legality, proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt, fair trial, legal aid and the right to remain silent, amongst others.[xxiii] Thus, India might have seriously misjudged the legal, political and social repercussions of opposing the Rome Statute, and risks further erosion of credibility if it altogether repudiates the Statute, and with it, its sizable practical advantages for protecting the dual interests of its nationals as individuals serving their country abroad, and of its national security.[xxiv]

Till India signs the Rome Statute it must be stated that the standards set by the Rome Statute could be of use in the region regardless of its poor record of ratification. For instance, the Rome standards have been used to promote law reform at the national level in India, as well as to provide redress to victims before national Courts in Sri Lanka. Thus, as mentioned in the ICC Outreach, although the importance of the Court in fighting impunity worldwide is undisputable, the ICC also exists as a tool to strengthen national legal systems and provide redress to victim. [xxv]

 

[i] India and the ICC, Usha Ramanathan, available at http://www.ielrc.org/content/a0505.pdf

[ii] Judgment of Justice Radhabino Pal at the Tokyo War Crimes Trial, 1946-48, A. F. M. Shamsur Rahman available at http://www.asiaticsociety.org.bd/journals/June_2010/contents/04_AFMShamsuRahman.htm

[iii] R. John Pritchard & Sonia M. Zaide (eds.), “The Dissenting Opinion of the Member for India R.B. al” inThe Tokyo War Crimes Trial, (New York & London: Garland, 1981), Vol. I. p. 21

[iv] Supra n.2

[v] Dilip Lahiri, Should India continue to stay out of ICC? (published on 24 November 2010) Available at http://www.orfonline.org/research/should-india-continue-to-stay-out-of-icc/

[vi] Ibid

[vii] http://www.kashmirprocess.org/reports/graves/BuriedEvidenceKashmir.pdf

[viii] India’s Secret Army in Kashmir, New Patterns of Abuse Emerge in the Conflict http://www.hrw.org/reports/1996/India2.htm#P211_52287

[ix] Roderic Alley, “Internal Conflict and the International Community: Wars without end?”, Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2004, p 120.

[x] Common Article 3 states: ‘The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.”

[xi] The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act  1958 available at http://mha.nic.in/pdfs/armed_forces_special_powers_act1958.pdf

[xii] Sanjoy Hazarika, An Abomination Called AFSPA,Febryary 12, 2013, The Hindu available at http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/an-abomination-called-afspa/article4404804.ece

[xiii] Ibid

[xiv] Sanajaoba, Armed Forces Special Power Act, 1958- A Law for Extra judicial Execution in Perpetuity, at http://openspace.org.in/node/461

[xv] Ibid

[xvi] Supra n. 5

[xvii] Supra n. 1

[xviii] Jane Boulden,Thomas G. Weiss, Terrorism and the UN: Before and After September 11, Indiana University press, (2004) p. 65-66

[xix] Supra n 5 ( refer conclusions)

[xx] http://www.frontline.in/navigation/?type=static&page=flonnet&rdurl=fl1807/18070670.htmhttp://www.sikhsangat.com/index.php?/topic/38139-why-india-rejects-the-international-criminal-court/

[xxi] Coalition of International Criminal Court,India, at http://www.iccnow.org/?mod=country&iduct=77

[xxii] Abraham, What Are we Scared of? Available at http://www.boloji.com/index.cfm?md=Content&sd=Articles&ArticleID=5471

[xxiii] Ibid

[xxiv] Rishav Banerjee, Rome Statute and India: An Analysis of India?s Attitude towards the International Criminal Court, Journal of East Asia & International Law › Nbr. 4-2, October 2011

[xxv] The ICC can wait, Justice Cannot , available at http://www.un.int/india/2011/ind1953.pdf

 

 

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Targeted Killings and Humanitarian Law

WRITTEN BY: DR. BONNIE C. BRENNAN[1]

The relationship between human rights and humanitarian law grows ever more complicated.  The current view is that human rights applies at all times everywhere and that humanitarian law is lex specialis, applying only in time of war in the theatre of war with the possible exception of belligerent occupation.[2] The question I would like to raise in this brief essay is which law properly applies to the targeted killings currently being undertaken by the Obama administration against suspected terrorists.

What is War?

The problem with the selection of the applicable law lies in defining the term “war.”[3]  Certainly, at the time that the Geneva Conventions[4] were written, shortly after the close of World War II, the answer as to what constituted “war” must have seemed self-evident.  Indeed, the 1949 Geneva Conventions were written with an eye to World War II and were intended to outlaw the excesses of that war.  One might argue that the excesses of that war were outlawed again as previous humanitarian law conventions were ignored by the belligerents during World War II.  As a product of the developments in technology that had taken place since World War I, especially in connection with airpower, the principle of distinction was simply disregarded. Both the Allies and the Axis powers engaged in the unlimited bombing of civilian populations with the intent to weaken their resolve to fight; hence, World War II tragically devolved into total war — and, of course, total destruction.[5]

It has often been noted that generals tend to prepare for the last war.  Apparently international lawyers are guilty of the same error in judgment.   In the shadow of the so-called Cold War, however, an outbreak of conventional warfare on the scale of the two world wars was impossible.  The two superpowers avoided direct confrontation with each other, especially after the Cuban Missile Crisis.  It is fair to say that the leadership on both sides did not merely scare each other, but also themselves, with the nuclear brinkmanship associated with that crisis.

As a result, there were no more conventional wars the consequences of which the 1949 Geneva Conventions were written to ameliorate.  Rather, both superpowers engaged in war by proxy around the world.  Internal wars, spurred by superpower meddling, became the norm as was evinced by the negotiation of Additional Protocol II of 1977.[6]  At or about that time, however, another form of violence had become prominent, that is, international terrorism which was perpetrated by a broad range of groups during the seventies including the IRA, the PLO, Beider Meinhof, the Red Brigades, FLQ and SLA.

Terrorism is, of course, effective because, like total war, it does not respect the principle of distinction.  But is it war and should it be addressed by humanitarian law?  Or is the international human rights regime the relevant law?  Or should an entirely different legal regime be developed with international terrorism solely in mind?

The Global War on Islam

This is hardly a new question, but it is becoming an increasingly urgent question.  It is old news that, after the attack on the World Trade Center, the Bush administration declared a Global War on Terror.  Despite repeated claims to the contrary, it is clear that it evolved into a Global War on Islam.

Should you doubt this, contrast the treatment of Timothy McVeigh, a Christian and a U.S. citizen, who detonated a truck bomb in front of the federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people and injuring over 800 in an act of revenge for Waco and Ruby Ridge with the treatment of Anwar al-Awlaki, a Muslim and also a U.S. citizen, who openly advocated Jihadism and who was the spiritual advisor to individuals who perpetrated terrorist acts including the shootings at Fort Hood in 2009 and attempted terrorist acts including the so-called Christmas Day bombing in the same year.   While both were ultimately executed, McVeigh first received a full and fair trial which observed the entire panoply of Constitutional rights.[7]  Anwar al-Awlaki, who may have preached violence but killed no one, was summarily executed by means of a drone attack in Yemen on September 30, 2011.[8]  Moreover, two weeks later, his 16-year-old son, also a U.S. citizen, was killed in a second drone strike, also in Yemen.[9]

Plainly, both the United States and its European allies have securitized their relationship with their Muslim minorities.  Other states around the world have jumped onto the bandwagon, seizing upon the opportunity to declare their own troublesome Muslim minorities “terrorists,”  including the Chechens so-designated by Russia and the Uyghurs so-designated by China — this despite the obvious fact that both states were guilty of repressing these minorities, thus inviting armed resistance.

Within the United States we have seen the rise of a second rate McCarthy in the guise of Congressman Peter King, who has held extensive hearings on the prevention of the radicalization of American Muslims.[10]  It is an approach that is guaranteed to result in the very outcome King purports to wish to prevent.  Plainly, American Muslims have not failed to note that they are viewed as enemies of the state by virtue of their religion and their religion alone.

Witnessing the characterization of Muslims as the enemy based solely on their religious beliefs — in open violation of our first amendment guarantees — is deeply disturbing and there appears to be no end in sight.  Anti-Muslim propaganda appears to issue from every quarter.  The current administration, which billed itself as a human rights administration during its first run for office, made campaign promises to close GITMO, try the prisoners held there and/or set them free.[11]  There was substantial, and I would say ill-considered resistance to rendering justice on behalf of these men.  Moreover, as events have evolved, it is not at all clear that the resistance originated entirely outside of the administration.[12]

President Obama, in reference to the fact that his daughters will soon be dating, has felt at liberty to joke about ensuring their future dates’ good behavior by threatening them with drones.[13]  Putting aside a father’s archaic desire to guard his daughters’ virtue, I am in any event ill at ease with the joke.  This administration has foresworn torture in favor of the use of drones for the purposes of summary execution of suspected terrorists around the world, including American citizens.  The collateral damage has, moreover, been substantial.  It is not at all clear to me how this is an improvement over the previous administration’s international legal record whether we deem the appropriate law to be human rights or humanitarian law.  Surely death by summary execution is not better than torture and surely both are reprehensible uses of force.

Choosing the Right Law 

Plainly, the United States is permitted to prevent further terrorist attacks.  So once again I must ask, which is the appropriate law?  Is it human rights law, which would only provide for the capture and prosecution of terrorists?  Or is it humanitarian law, which permits the use of force only against legitimate military targets during time of war?  On a human rights theory, the United States is under an obligation to attempt to take the perpetrators into custody and provide them with a full and fair trial consistent with our constitution.  There are only limited circumstances under which criminal law would permit the U.S. government to kill a suspected criminal rather then capturing him or her alive and all of them involve the protection of the state and its citizens against the immediate threat of violence.

However, the present administration is obviously not disposed to proceed in a manner consistent with the human rights model.  Nothing made that fact clearer than the execution of Osama bin Laden.  Despite claims to the contrary, it is absurd to suppose that a highly elite Navy SEALs unit was incapable of capturing bin Laden alive and returning him to the United States to be prosecuted.[14]  Videos of bin Laden that emerged after his death showed a frightened old man who had hidden in a Pakistani compound for years to avoid capture.[15]  They underscored how vulnerable to attack he really was.  Moreover, there was plenty of evidence including archival film footage to establish that, while he may have been the face of international Jihadi terrorism, he was himself incapable of so much as properly handling a gun.[16]  It should have been obvious to an objective observer that he posed no threat to the members of the SEALs unit.  Whatever reasons may be offered, the plain truth was that the American military was sent to Pakistan to execute, not capture, the then weak old man.

The summary execution of suspected terrorists is clearly the preference of the current administration.  In contrast to the capture of the bulk of the Nazi leadership (sans Hitler, who committed suicide)  and their prosecution at Nuremberg in accordance with the rule of law, persons who notably killed not thousands but millions of unarmed civilians during World War II, there has been no attempt to bring alleged terrorists to justice after 9/11.   Hence, the summary executions continue apace.

Can a serious argument be made that humanitarian law applies?  I believe that it is a hard argument to make.  None of the hallmarks of war are here apparent.  Certainly, terrorists have political motivations.  But this fact is hardly sufficient to convert loosely organized groups into armies waging war.  The current administration acknowledges that the structural integrity of al-Qaeda has largely been undermined.[17]  While it is not clear to me that it was ever the highly organized, monolithic group that the last administration represented it to be, it is certainly not that anymore.

In any event, for humanitarian law to apply, the claim must be that terrorists can properly be targeted with force by the United States military by virtue of their status as enemy soldiers.  I would suggest that that claim is, on its face, a poor fit with the requirements of humanitarian law.  Indeed, every account of how humanitarian law justifies targeted killings that I have so far encountered assumes that summary executions of suspected terrorists are legitimate and then attempts to make this square peg fit into an unquestionably round hole.

We know that Additional Protocol II was written with nonstate actors in mind.  Article 1, entitled “Material field of application,” provides in paragraph 1 that the Protocol is intended to supplement Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions in connection with armed conflicts “which take place in the territory of a High Contracting Party between its armed forces and dissident armed forces or other organized armed groups which, under responsible command, exercise such control over a part of its territory as to enable them to carry out sustained and concerted military operations.”  Common Article 3 similarly provides that it applies to “armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties.”  Plainly, the remainder of humanitarian law, whether originating with the Hague or Geneva Conventions, has no application here as they are only relevant to interstate conflicts.[18]

One can make the argument that international terrorism, while by definition crossing international borders, nonetheless occurs in the territory of the State Party where the terrorist attack occurs.  One could further argue that at least some terrorist groups possess a sufficiently well established command structure to comprise an organized armed group.  International terrorists do not, however, “exercise such control over a part of [a State Party’s] territory as to enable them to carry out sustained and concerted military operations” nor indeed does that appear to be their objective.

Plainly, neither Additional Protocol II nor Common Article 3 have application to international terrorism.  Indeed, the provisions of Paragraph 2 of Additional Protocol II would appear, by its terms, to exclude international terrorism.  It states that the protocol “shall not apply to situations of internal disturbances and tensions, such as riots, isolated and sporadic acts of violence and other acts of a similar nature, as not being armed conflicts.”[19]  Where international terrorism preexisted the negotiation and adoption of Additional Protocol II, its drafters could have explicitly included it if they were so disposed.  All of the evidence suggests that they had no intention of including terrorism within its coverage.

Advocates of the application of humanitarian law to international terrorism bemoan the fact that the failure to designate terrorists as legitimate military targets gives terrorists the upper hand.  I can only say welcome to the world of law enforcement.  Yet we require all police agencies of the United States to observe the requirements of our law, including the Constitution of the United States of America to which they have sworn their allegiance.

The Third Choice

There is, of course, a third alternative and that is to develop a new body of law intended exclusively to address the question of terrorism.  It would not be odd to suggest that there are lacunae in international law, including the law of war.  Spies, for instance, are intimately involved in the prosecution of war.  The gathering of reliable intelligence is essential to the identification of military targets and the minimization of collateral damage.  Yet, even recognizing this fact, the law addressing the activities of spies and their treatment upon capture is admittedly underdeveloped.[20]

The United Nations has long tried to develop law treating the question of terrorism, to date with little success.[21]  The problem is always and invariably the same:  One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.  This is not a position without merit even from an American point of view.  There can be little doubt that the British colonial administration would have deemed members of the American militias during our War of Independence to be terrorists were the concept available to them at the time.  International law has undergone extensive development since the American Revolution, however, and compelling politically motivated terrorists/freedom fighters to observe the principle of distinction would be a boon to the international community.

In the absence of a fully developed legal regime specifically treating terrorism, however, the default principle must prevail.  If an individual is not a soldier, then he or she is by definition a civilian.  As a civilian, he or she is not a legitimate target of military force.  The summary execution of a civilian is not consistent with either humanitarian law or the law of human rights.  We, the United States, its law enforcement agencies and its armed forces, are under an obligation to capture suspected terrorists and bring them to justice.  Targeted killing is simply insupportable under the law as it currently exists.

Conclusion

I have no love of terrorists.  I lived in New York City when the planes struck the World Trade Center – that symbol of American global economic dominance.  My mother lived only a short distance from the Pentagon when the planes struck that most prominent symbol of American military might.  I feared to discover if anyone I knew died in either place.  I have yet to recover from the images of individuals, who knowing that they were about to die, were left with the singular choice as to how.  I still cannot bear to reflect on their fall from the heights of the World Trade Center to their deaths while horrified New Yorkers helplessly looked on.  In sum, I have no confusion about why they call it terrorism, as I was indeed terrified.

But while I have no love of terrorism, I do love the law and I cannot permit the tortured interpretations to which it has been subject since 9/11 to pass without comment.  As a state that everywhere promotes the rule of law, we must act consistently with the law or be deemed utterly without credibility.  It is time for us to cease and desist from the practice of targeted killings.  It is time for us to do what is right because it is the right thing to do.


[1]   Bonnie C. Brennan received her J.D. from the NYU School of Law and her Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.  She currently teaches human rights and humanitarian law at the NYU Department of Politics and practices criminal defense law at The Legal Aid Society in New York City.

[2]   See Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, ¶ 106, ICJ Advisory Opinion, 9 July 2004, http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/131/1671.pdf (Accessed on February 7, 2013).

[3]   The term of art is, of course, “armed conflict,” a term which the Geneva Conventions do not themselves define. For a ICRC commentary on the meaning of “armed conflict,” see http://www.icrc.org/eng/assets/files/other/opinion-paper-armed-conflict.pdf (Accessed on February 7, 2013).

[4] See 1949 Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols (text and commentaries), http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/CONVPRES (Accessed on February 7, 2013).

[5]  For a discussion of “strategic” or “area”  bombing, see Stephen A. Garrett, Ethics and Airpower in World War II  (1997).

[6]   Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts, 8 June 1977, http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/INTRO/475?OpenDocument (Accessed on February 7, 2012).

[7]  See Gore Vidal, “The Meaning of Timothy McVeigh,” Vanity Fair (September 2001), http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2001/09/mcveigh200109 (Accessed on February 7, 2013), for a discussion of the man and his motivations.

[8] Ahmed Al Haj, “Ahmed Al-Haj, “Anwar Al-Awlaki Dead: U.S.-Born Al Qaeda Cleric Killed In Yemen,” October 10, 2011, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/30/anwar-alawlaki-usborn-mus_n_988397.html (Accessed on February 7, 2013).

[9]  Peter Finn and Greg Miller, “Anwar Al-Awlaki’s family speaks out against his son’s death in airstrike,” Washington Post, October 17, 2011, http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2011-10-17/world/ 35279713_1_anwar-al-awlaki-ibrahim-al-banna-aqap (Accessed on February 7, 2013).

[10]  Chris Lisee, “Rep. Peter King’s Muslim ‘Radicalization’ Hearings Return to Capitol,” June 21, 2012,  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/21/peter-king-muslim-radicalization-hearings_n_1613746. html (Accessed on February 7, 2013).

[11]  ACLU, “Close Guantanamo,” undated,  http://www.aclu.org/close-guantanamo (Accessed on February 7, 2013).

[12] Charlie Savage, “Closing Guantanamo Fades as a Priority,” New York Times,  June 25, 2010,  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/26/us/politics/26gitmo.html?_r=0 (Accessed on February 7, 2013).

[13]  Kristina Wong, “President Obama’s Joke About Predator Drones Draws Fire,” ABC News, May  3, 2010, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2010/05/president-obamas-joke-about-predator-drones-draws-fire/ (Accessed on February 7, 2013).

[14]  See Nicholas Schmidle, “Getting Bin Laden,” The New Yorker, August 8, 2011,  http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/08/08/110808fa_fact_schmidle?currentPage=all (Accessed on February 7, 2013) for a popular account of Bin Laden’s death.

[15]  Martha Raddatz & Luis Martinez, “Osama Bin Laden Videos Released by Government,” May 8, 2011, http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/osama-bin-laden-home-videos-released-pentagon/story?id=13552384 (Accessed on February 7, 2013).

[16] “Osama Bin Laden Shoots Guns,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Cg2s3amG50 (Accessed on February 7, 2013), shows the propagandistic version of the video.  However, although I can find it no where on the Internet, there were airings of the same video on television which showed an inept bin Laden fumbling with the gun before and after the cut of him apparently firing it.

[17] James Gordon Meek, “Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda a shell of its former strength; Yemeni group now biggest threat: report,” NY Daily News, February 8, 2011, http://www. nydailynews.com/ news/national/ osama-bin-laden-al-qaeda-shell-strength-yemeni-group-biggest-threat-report-article-1.135402#ixzz2KGil0d5S (Accessed on February 7, 2013).

[18] See 1949 Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols (text and commentaries), http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/CONVPRES?OpenView  (Accessed on February 7, 2013).

[19]   Id.

[20] Michael Bothe, “Combatants and Noncombatants,” in Dieter Fleck, ed., The Handbook of Humanitarian Law in Armed Conflicts, 65, 98 (1999),  http://books.google.com/books  (Accessed on February 7, 2013).

[21]  Sixth Committee, Sixty-seventh General Assembly, 1st & 2nd Meetings (AM & PM), “Legal Committee Urges Conclusion of Draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism:  Delegates Urge Clear Definition to Distinguish Terrorist Acts from Right of Self-determination,” UN Doc. GA/L/3433, 8 October 2012, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/ 2012/gal3433.doc.htm (Accessed on February 7, 2013). See also International Instruments Related to the Prevention and Suppression of International Terrorism, (2008), UN Sales No. E.08.V.2, http://www.unodc.org/documents/terrorism/ Publications/Int_Instruments_Prevention_and_Suppression_Int_Terrorism/Publication_-_English_-_08-25503_text.pdf (Accessed on February 7, 2013), for a compilation of the piecemeal approach to the regulation of international terrorism so far achieved by the international community.