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Volume 27 • Number 2

April 2013


Should International Law Permit State-Sanctioned Assassination of Non-State Enemies?

by Michael Davis

My subject is the moral justification of state-sanctioned assassination of non-state enemies, especially "terrorists," in territory outside the borders of the state in question. The "should" of my title is, then, moral. The subject is both significant and timely. The United States seems to have adopted a policy of assassinating its non-state enemies. Other states may follow (and some, such as Israel, were already following such a policy before the United States began). The best-known example of this policy to date is the killing of an unarmed Osama bin Laden in his home on May 2, 2011. Apart from its efficiency and the fame (or infamy) of its target, perhaps this assassination's most noteworthy feature is that it was carried out, under the direct supervision of the US president, by American military sent deep into the territory of an ally, Pakistan, without the prior consent or knowledge of Pakistan's government, a relatively clear violation of international law (because a serious violation of Pakistan's sovereignty).

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ISSN: 2152-0542