Targeted Killing, Human Rights and Ungoverned Spaces

This brief commentary considers the potential effect of a territorial state’s international human rights obligations on the law governing targeted killings. It posits that these obligations should limit permissible attacks by an attacking state when the territorial state is not party to an armed conflict with the relevant non-state actor, particularly when a territorial state consents to the attacking state’s actions. It also argues that a territorial state’s extraterritorial human rights obligations provides support for an attacking state’s right to resort to force in the territorial state when it fails to suppress a resident threat. It concludes by briefly suggesting that recognizing the necessity of effective governance to the preservation of human rights could prompt the development of an international law of ungoverned spaces, perhaps best thought of as “international martial law.”

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