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Targeted Killing, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and EU Policy

22 February 2013

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Use of the tactic of targeted killing has been dramatically increased by the United States’ government since 2008, both within conventional battlefield contexts and outside places where United States’ forces are directly engaged in hostilities on the ground. The tactic raises complex questions of human rights and humanitarian law, and evaluating the legality of the tactic can be difficult in any given instance. The tactic also poses challenges for European partners of the United States, whose citizens have been the subject of strikes and who may be called upon to share intelligence relevant to a strike.

This HLPS examined critical questions raised by this tactic, namely:

  • The analysis of the application of the armed conflict concept to the conflict with terrorist groups
  • The analysis of concepts of imminent threat and direct participation in hostilities as applied in this context
  • Practical measures and standards to enhance accountability for possible errors and violations, and ensure remedies for victims of unlawful strikes
  • The possible need for a hybrid framework which mixes the laws of war with human rights law to formulate standards appropriate to this policy
  • Steps towards a coherent and cohesive European position.

Newly released

Policy Paper

Nehal Bhuta, Claus Kreß, Ian Seiderman, Christof Heyns, Nils Melzer, Martin Scheinin, Eyal Benvenisti, Anthony Dworkin

Policy Brief 

Nehal Bhuta and Hin-Yan Liu




Rosario Aitala Judge, Senior Adviser on Crisis Areas and International Crime, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Italy)
Marina Aksenova, EUI
Philip Alston, Professor, New York University Law School
Jonathan Andrew, EUI
Stefano Bartolini, Director, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, EUI
Eyal Benvenisti, Professor, Tel Aviv University Law Faculty
Nehal Bhuta, Professor, Law Department, EUI
Tess Borden, Researcher, Special Rapporteur Office, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
Damaris Carnal, Head, International Humanitarian Law Section, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
Sarah Cleveland, Professor, Columbia Law School
Emmanuel de Groof, EUI
Gilles de Kerchove, EU Counter-terrorism Coordinator
François Delerue, EUI
Anthony Dworkin, Senior Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations
Ben Emmerson QC, UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-terrorism and Human Rights
Pasquale Ferrara, Secretary General, EUI
Francesco Francioni, Professor, Law Department, EUI
Alexandre Galand, EUI
Marc Garlasco, Senior Military Adviser, Human Rights Council
Avner Gidron, Senior Policy Adviser, Amnesty International
Lisa Ginsborg, EUI
Christine Pii Hansen, Deputy Head, Office of International Law, Department of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Denmark)
Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions
Christiane Höhn, Adviser to the EU Counter-terrorism Coordinator
Marie Jacobsson, Legal Adviser, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Sweden)
Sarah Knuckey, Research Director, Adjunct Professor of Clinical Law, Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice, New York University
Claus Kreß, Professor, University of Cologne Law Faculty
Liesbeth Lijnzaad, Legal Adviser, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (The Netherlands)
Hin-Yan Liu, Max Weber Fellow, EUI
Nils Melzer, Geneva Centre for Security Policy
Georg Nolte, Professor, Humboldt University
Caroline S. Parkes, Consultant Researcher on the All Party, Parliamentary Group on Drones, House of Commons, UK
Jelena Pejic, International Committee of the Red Cross
Paul Rietjens, Director General for Legal Affairs, Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs, Belgium
James Ross, Legal and Policy Director, Human Rights Watch
Martin Scheinin, Professor, Law Department, EUI
Ian Seiderman, Legal and Policy Director, International Commission of Jurists
Cornelius Wiesener, EUI



httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuGXotVJiAk Nehal Bhuta interviews Christof Heyns(UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions) httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYRA8jxmAYs Nehal Bhuta interviews Ben Emmerson (UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-terrorism and Human Rights)

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