Chapter

TARGETED KILLING: MURDER, COMBAT OR LAW ENFORCEMENT?

Jeff McMahan

in Targeted Killings

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199646470
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738975 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199646470.003.0006
TARGETED KILLING: MURDER, COMBAT OR LAW ENFORCEMENT?

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This chapter begins by arguing that the targeted killing of terrorists can be morally justified only in terms of self-defence or the defence of others, and not on retributive grounds. The most plausible version of the defensive justification holds that a terrorist is liable to the use of force when he is responsible for a threat to innocent lives and the force reasonably aims to avert that threat. On this justification, the permissibility of using lethal defensive force is not based on the terrorist's involvement with past episodes of terrorism, as would be the case in retributive justification, but, rather, on his current involvement by way of intending, planning, or assisting some envisioned act of terrorism. This justification might seem to fit well with the law-enforcement model, because domestic criminal law authorizes the use of deadly force for purposes of self-defence and the defence of others. However, the justification in question must depart from the law-enforcement model in a crucial respect: the latter model authorizes defensive force only when the threat is imminent, while targeted killing is preventive, aimed at persons whose threat is not imminent.

Keywords: targeted killing; terrorists; self-defence; defensive justification; law-enforcement model

Chapter.  11238 words. 

Subjects: Public International Law

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