Wiktionary defines ‘targeted killing’ as: “The intentional killing by a government or its agents of a civilian or ‘unlawful combatant’ who is not in that government’s custody, and who is taking part in an armed conflict or terrorism, whether by bearing arms or otherwise, and is thus regarded by the government as having lost the immunity from being targeted that he or she would otherwise have under the Geneva Conventions.”
The term ‘targeted killing’ is preferred to the word ‘assassination’, because terrorist killings are seen as self-defence, not murder, and self-defence is legal.
Former Federal judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, Judge Abraham Sofaer, says that assassination is considered illegal in the USA because it is generally seen as murder. He further says that self-defence killing in international affairs is pretty much the same as the police killing a domestic criminal in self-defence.
In opposition to the above, on its website, the American Civil Liberties Union states: “The CIA and the military are carrying out an illegal ‘targeted killing’ program in which people far from any battlefield are determined to be enemies of the state and killed without charge or trial. The executive branch has, in effect, claimed the unchecked authority to put the names of citizens and others on ‘kill lists’ on the basis of secret determinations, based on secret evidence, that individuals meet a secret definition of the enemy.”
It seems just as many people are opposed to this definition as agree with it. Those who argue against this definition say that, while criminals should be brought to justice, targeted killing is not, in fact, justice, particularly in some cases, such as where Israeli citizens are targeted as suspected terrorists simply because of their nationality. The argument is that, if the law is not strictly adhered to in terms of human rights, what is the point of having the law in the first place?
However, it is not only the US that uses targeted killing to fight terrorism – Israel, too, employs this tactic, as do other governments.
Those who oppose targeted killing are also concerned about who meets the criteria to become a target, because this information is not easily available – which is one of the main reasons for the dispute. It’s also unclear what the circumstances must be in order for targeted killing to be considered legal self-defence rather than murder.
I’m unsure of the full facts here, because, as already mentioned, some of them are hard to come by, but I must say that I disagree with killing potentially innocent citizens just because they ‘might be’ terrorists, which is what many believe is happening.
What do you think?