States of Exception: Regulating Targeted Killing in a ‘Global Civil War’

Nehal Bhuta

in Human Rights, Intervention, and the Use of Force

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780199552719
Published online January 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191721090 | DOI:

Series: Collected Courses of the Academy of European Law

 States of Exception: Regulating Targeted Killing in a ‘Global Civil War’

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This chapter reviews the way that the ‘global war on terror’ destabilizes legal categories regulating the scope of legitimate violence in international human rights (IHR) law and international humanitarian law (IHL), through the prism of the targeted killings of terrorist suspects who are outside the territory of the state using force. It considers the proposition that IHL applies as lex specialis to IHR during armed conflict and asks how we might understand this. It argues that while lex specialis is theoretically appealing because of its apparent conceptual neatness, it provides no concrete guidance as to the determinate content of the rules governing the targeted killing of terrorist suspects, and attempts at application problematize the notion of a lex specialis relation between IHL and IHR. There are no clear conceptual-logical bases to decide which of these frameworks is properly applied to the targeted killing of terrorist suspects, and thus that transparent political and policy choices must be made.

Keywords: use of force; war on terror; human rights; targeted killing; international humanitarian law; lex specialis

Chapter.  17026 words. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration

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