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Targeted Killing in International Law
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Book cover
Author Nils Melzer
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series Oxford Monographs in International Law
Subject Targeted killing
Genre Warfare
Publisher Oxford University Press
Publication date 29 May 2008
Media type Hardback
Pages 524
ISBN 978-0-19-953316-9
OCLC Number 489257770

Targeted Killing in International Law is a book about the legality of targeted killing, written by Nils Melzer. It was first published by Oxford University Press in May 2008. The book explores the history of targeted killing as a government strategy by multiple countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Switzerland and Germany; for both military and law enforcement purposes. Melzer argues that directly after the September 11 attacks in the United States, perceptions of the tactic became more positive.[1]

Melzer holds a PhD degree in law from University of Zürich. His dissertation dealt with targeted killing and the book updates and revises that work. He had earlier written on the subject for Yearbook of Humanitarian International Law in 2006. Melzer serves as a legal advisor for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). He has lectured at the Master-level at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.

The book received a favorable reception and was a joint winner of the 2009 Paul Guggenheim Prize in International Law given by the Geneva Graduate Institute. It garnered positive reviews in publications including the International Criminal Justice Review,[1] the European Journal of International Law,[2] the Leiden Journal of International Law,[3] the Australian Yearbook of International Law,[4] the American Journal of International Law.[5] and in the book Legislating the War on Terror: An Agenda for Reform.[6]

AuthorEdit

Nils Melzer graduated summa cum laude from the University of Zürich with a PhD degree in law.[7][8] Melzer worked for the District Court of Meilen, Zürich, first as a Judicial Clerk and then as Judicial Secretary.[7][8] Melzer serves as a legal advisor for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).[6][9] He lectured at the Master-level at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.[7][8]

Prior to the book, Melzer published "Targeted Killing or Less Harmful Means? – Israel's High Court Judgment on Targeted Killing and the Restrictive Function of Military Necessity" in the Yearbook of Humanitarian International Law in 2006,[10] and a dissertation in 2007.[11][12] Melzer also authored "Interpretive Guidance on the Notion of Direct Participation in Hostilities under International Humanitarian Law", published in 2009 by ICRC.[7][8] Melzer's research was utilized in Section IX of the ICRC's Interpretive Guidance on the Notion of Direct Participation in Hostilities under International Humanitarian Law.[13][14]

Publication historyEdit

Targeted Killing in International Law is part of the series, Oxford Monographs in International Law.[15] The hardback was first published by Oxford University Press on 29 May 2008[9][16] and subsequently in the United States by Oxford University Press, USA, in July 2008.[17][18] In January 2009, the work was published online at Oxford Scholarship Online.[19] On 10 September 2009, Oxford University Press released a paperback in the UK.[20] Oxford University Press, USA released a paperback on 9 November 2009.[21]

OverviewEdit

The author presents an historical, legal and moral examination of targeted killing. It observes that after September 11, the Western world grew more supportive of targeted killing than ever before.[1] The book recounts in depth how state-sanctioned targeted killing is perceived in other countries.

MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft

A Predator drone; sometimes used in targeted killings

Nils Melzer defines targeted killing as, "The use of lethal force attributable to a subject of international law with the intent, premeditation and deliberation to kill individually selected persons who are not in the custody of those targeting them."[22] Melzer analyzes all areas of the topic.[6]

The book discusses related legal practices of countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Switzerland and Germany. Israel was the first country to publicly acknowledge the practice — in November 2000. The author connects this policy initiative with Israel's ongoing conflict with Palestinian militants. Melzer argues that this policy was controversial — the issue came before the Israeli Supreme Court, where the matter was not decided for almost five years. The court's judgment was issued on 14 December 2006, but neither forbade nor endorsed the practice. Melzer asserts that it left multiple important legal conundra unresolved. Its significance was that it dealt not with a single incident, but rather with the nature of the policy itself and set forth conditions for examining the legality of future episodes.[1]

Melzer claims that during the Vietnam War the Central Intelligence Agency used targeted killings as part of the Phoenix Program, attempting to eliminate Vietcong sympathizers. Melzer cites a source who contends that some 40,000 individuals may have been killed under this program. The author sees the air raids on Muammar Gaddafi in the 1986 bombing of Libya in response to the Lockerbie bombing as another instance. He argues that after September 11, 2001, the policy became more acceptable in the U.S. to adopt targeted killings as a tactic.[1] According to Melzer, after the September 11 attacks, U.S. strategists began to support targeted killings and accepted advice from Israel on how to use such tactics to deal with suicide bombers. Melzer describes an abrupt change where military members were ordered to "shoot to kill", replacing prior orders to incapacitate. The author asserts that in at least one case in 2005, a person was killed because they were thought to be a terrorist holding a bomb. It was later revealed that this person suffered from mental illness and may have had a medical history of bipolar disorder. The shooting was determined to be justifiable under the law and criminal charges were not filed.[1]

Melzer discusses the shift in perceptions towards acceptance by United Kingdom law enforcement after September 11. The Metropolitan Police officially endorsed a "shoot to kill" strategy directly after the attack. Melzer finds this policy shift incongruous, due to the fact that targeted killing had never before been acceptable as police strategy. Prior to the attack, targeted killing was a criminal offense.[1]

ReceptionEdit

Targeted Killing in International Law was a joint-winner of the 2009 Paul Guggenheim Prize in International Law given by the Geneva Graduate Institute.[9][23] In the chapter "Targeted Killing in U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy and Law" authored by Kenneth Anderson as a contributor to the book Legislating the War on Terror: An Agenda for Reform, he characterizes Melzer's book as a "formidable treatise".[6] Anderson describes the book in more depth in a footnote: "The standard reference work on targeted killing and law is Nils Melzer, Targeted Killing in International Law (Oxford University Press, 2008). It is a marvelous work of scholarship, more comprehensive than any existing source, by a senior ICRC legal adviser."[6] He goes on to criticize the perspective of the book for functioning as an "advocacy brief", because it describes and then rejects objections by the United States to arguments addressed in the work.[6] Anderson writes, "It is in this sense the indispensable book on the subject, one which no researcher on this subject can do without, and yet, under the surface of the extraordinary scholarship, it relentlessly advocates a particular end."[6] Anderson notes, "Melzer discusses all aspects of the topic, including law enforcement uses of targeted killing, a subject usually skipped over, just as I do here."[6]

In a review of the book for the journal International Criminal Justice Review, Robert M. Worley of Penn State Altoona notes, "The author is very thorough in describing how state-sponsored killing is viewed across various parts of the world."[1] Worley notes the relevance of the book to scholars in various fields:

It seems that, especially after the 9/11 attacks, the Western world is more tolerant of state-sponsored targeted killings than ever before. Melzer also provides a historical analysis of many of the various countries that he examines. For this reason, the book could have as much relevance to a historian as it would a political scientist. This book will also be of interest to anyone who is interested in studying or researching issues that are related to terrorism. The author demonstrates that state-sponsored targeted killing is a highly complex and controversial issue. Melzer, who is trained as a lawyer, also provides important criteria, if such an act is to be considered permissible under the international normative paradigm of law enforcement.[1]
Worley concludes his review by noting: "Anyone who has an interest in either law or comparative criminal justice should consider reading this book. This is especially true because Melzer does an excellent job of examining state-sponsored targeted killings under international human rights and humanitarian law. Reading his book will definitely add new insights into what is already a very interesting topic. For these reasons, I strongly recommend this book."[1]

William Abresch comments favorably on Targeted Killing in International Law, in a review for the European Journal of International Law.[2] He writes, "Melzer's book makes a significant contribution to our understanding of how targeted killing is regulated by international law."[2] Abresch observes, "His sensible definition of the problem, his principled division of the analysis into law enforcement and hostilities paradigms, his provocative analysis of military necessity, and his coverage of often overlooked aspects, such as booby-traps, will no doubt influence future work on this issue."[2]

A review of the book in the Leiden Journal of International Law by Tamás Hoffmann recommends the work to multiple potential readers.[3] Hoffmann notes, "Targeted Killing in International Law is a piece of solid scholarship which can only be recommended to scholars, practitioners, and students alike."[3] Hoffmann calls it, "a very methodically researched treatise which will become a useful work of reference on the topic."[3] The review places the book within the context of addressing legal issues inherent in debating the murky concent of targeted killing, "It is definitely a step towards finally settling the legal problems surrounding the question of targeted killing and will hopefully help to bring an end to the 'shadowy realm of half-legality and non-accountability.'"[3]

Helen Durhan praises the writing quality of Melzer's work, in a review for the Australian Yearbook of International Law.[4] Durhan writes, "The book is a well written, clearly structured, thoughtful and measured account of issues such as current state practice, judicial consideration and relevant international law."[4] She goes on to note, "In essence Targeted Killing in International Law is a book about balance and the desire for careful consideration before the application of policies involving the destruction of lives."[4] Of the author's focus throughout the work, Durhan observes, "Melzer deals with each of the legal issues involved in targeted killing with clarity and precision."[4] The review concludes, "Melzer's detailed examination is a large step forward in the development of a better understanding of the issues and particular pressure points that daily engage advisers, courts, international lawyers and politicians when trying to determine when the state is in the position to take lives."[4]

Writing in a review for the American Journal of International Law, Michael N. Schmitt notes that the arguments put forth in the book by the author are indeed accurate, "Melzer accurately asserts that the various legal regimes applicable within the law enforcement paradigm lead to a series of cumulative conditions precedent to a targeted killing."[5] Analyzing Melzer's examination of applicability of the targeted killing strategy for police, Schmitt writes, "It is an exceptionally rich survey of treaty law, case law, customary law, general principles of law, and various soft-law instruments such as the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials."[5] Schmitt concludes, "Melzer has unquestionably made enormous strides in systemizing and clarifying the many complex legal issues that have surrounded the politically volatile topic of targeted killings. Targeted Killing in International Law is not just a major contribution to the legal literature, it has justifiably emerged as the premier work on the subject."[5]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Worley, Robert M. (Penn State Altoona) (June 2010). "Targeted Killing in International Law". United States. pp. 211–212. ISSN 1057-5677. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Abresch, William (2009). "Targeted Killing in International Law". Great Britain. pp. 449–453. Digital object identifier:10.1093/ejil/chp012. ISSN 0938-5428. http://ejil.oxfordjournals.org/content/20/2/449.full. Retrieved 2010-10-22. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Hoffmann, Tamás (December 2009). "Targeted Killing in International Law". Great Britain. pp. 867–873. ISSN 0922-1565. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Durhan, Helen (2008). "Targeted Killing in International Law". Australia. pp. 276–277. ISSN 0084-7658. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Schmitt, Michael N. (October 2009). "Targeted Killing in International Law". United States. pp. 813–818. ISSN 0002-9300. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 Anderson, Kenneth (2009). "Targeted Killing in U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy and Law". In Wittes, Benjamin. Legislating the War on Terror: An Agenda for Reform. Brookings Institution Press. pp. 360, 366, 394–395. ISBN 0-8157-0310-4. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 "Dr Nils Melzer". Speakers' Biographies. ACO – Allied Command Operations, NATO / OTAN. 2010. http://www.aco.nato.int/page333810245.aspx. Retrieved 2010-10-22. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 "Introduction, Dr. Nils Melzer, Legal Adviser for the International Committee of the Red Cross, 'Targeted Killing in International Law'". The Graduate Institute. 16 October 2008. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7pejb_nils-melzer-introduction_news. Retrieved 2010-10-22. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Oxford University Press (2010). "OUP: Melzer: Targeted Killing in International Law". OUP Catalogue. ukcatalogue.oup.com. http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199533169.do. Retrieved 2010-10-22. 
  10. Melzer, Nils (2006). "Targeted Killing or Less Harmful Means? – Israel's High Court Judgment on Targeted Killing and the Restrictive Function of Military Necessity". pp. 87–113. Digital object identifier:10.1017/S1389135906000870. 
  11. Melzer, Nils (2007). Targeted Killing Under the International Normative Paradigms of Law Enforcement and Hostilities. Zurich: Schulthess Juristische Medien AG. 
  12. Römer, Jan (2010). Killing in a Gray Area between Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Springer. p. 172. ISBN 3-642-04661-4. 
  13. Parks, W. Hays (Spring 2010). "Forum: Direct Participation in Hostilities: Perspectives on the ICRC Interpretive Guidance: Part IX of the ICRC 'Direct Participation in Hostilities' Study: No Mandate, No Expertise and Legally Incorrect". New York University. p. 769. 
  14. Melzer, Nils (Spring 2010). "Forum: Direct Participation in Hostilities: Perspectives on the ICRC Interpretive Guidance: Keeping the Balance Between Military Necessity and Humanity: A Response to Four Critiques of the ICRC's Interpretive Guidance on the Notion of Direct Participation in Hostilities". New York University. p. 831. 
  15. "Oxford Monographs in International Law". OUP USA Home. Oxford University Press. 2010. http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/series/OxfordMonographsinInternationalL. Retrieved 2010-11-07. 
  16. Melzer, Nils (29 May 2008). Targeted Killing in International Law. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-953316-9. 
  17. Oxford University Press, USA (2010). "OUP: Melzer: Targeted Killing in International Law". OUP USA Home. www.oup.com. http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Law/PublicInternationalLaw/GeneralPublicInternationalLaw/~~/dmlldz11c2EmY2k9OTc4MDE5OTUzMzE2OQ==. Retrieved 2010-10-22. 
  18. Melzer, Nils (July 2008). Targeted Killing in International Law. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 0-19-953316-4. 
  19. Melzer, Nils (January 2009). "Targeted Killing in International Law". www.oxfordscholarship.com. Digital object identifier:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199533169.001.0001. ISBN 9780199533169. http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/oso/public/content/law/9780199533169/toc.html. Retrieved 2010-10-22. 
  20. Melzer, Nils (10 September 2009). Targeted Killing in International Law. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-957790-3. 
  21. Melzer, Nils (9 November 2009). Targeted Killing in International Law. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 0-19-957790-0. 
  22. Solis, Gary D. (2010). The Law of Armed Conflict: International Humanitarian Law in War. Cambridge University Press. pp. 538–539. ISBN 0-521-87088-7. 
  23. Oxford University Press, USA (2010). "Winner of the 2009 Paul Guggenheim Prize (Geneva Graduate Institute)". OUP USA Home. www.oup.com. http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Law/?view=usa&ci=9780199577903. Retrieved 2010-10-22. 

Further readingEdit

  • Finkelstein, Claire; Jens David Ohlin, Andrew Altman (30 April 2012). Targeted Killings: Law and Morality in an Asymmetrical World. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199646470. 
  • Melzer, Nils (2006). "Targeted Killing or Less Harmful Means? – Israel's High Court Judgment on Targeted Killing and the Restrictive Function of Military Necessity". pp. 87–113. Digital object identifier:10.1017/S1389135906000870. 
  • Melzer, Nils (2007). Targeted Killing Under the International Normative Paradigms of Law Enforcement and Hostilities. Zurich: Schulthess Juristische Medien AG. 
  • Melzer, Nils (Spring 2010). "Forum: Direct Participation in Hostilities: Perspectives on the ICRC Interpretive Guidance: Keeping the Balance Between Military Necessity and Humanity: A Response to Four Critiques of the ICRC's Interpretive Guidance on the Notion of Direct Participation in Hostilities". New York University. p. 831. 

External linksEdit

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