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Obama Administration May Be Guilty Of War Crimes

File:MQ-9 Reaper in flight (2007).jpg

The Obama Administration’s assassination program, including its use of drones, has already proved controversial around the world. But now questions are being raised as to whether the program violates the laws of war and international human rights law. Outside of Afghanistan, or a “defined conflict zone”, the use of lethal force is subject to international laws protecting human rights. Laws the Obama Administration may have violated in Yemen and Pakistan where they have killed people using drones.

If the United Statesis only involved in an armed conflict in Afghanistan, international human rights law would be the regime that regulates the use of lethal force in Pakistan and Yemen. Therefore, as noted by Amnesty International, the use of lethal force outside of Afghanistan is legal when it can be demonstrated that:

“[It was] only used when strictly unavoidable to protect life, no less harmful means such as capture or non-lethal incapacitation was possible, and the use of force was proportionate in the prevailing circumstances.”

That is a pretty tough standard to meet when the Obama Administration is engaging in “signature strikes” or essentially killing people based on profiling people in a given area.

It is, in essence, killing by algorithm.

Signature strikes target individuals for death based not on the confirmed identity or activities of the targets, but rather “behavioral characteristics” identified as those typical of militants. This is a clear violation of the principle of distinction. Further, Amnesty International questions President Obama’s assertion that drone strikes are only launched when there is “near certainty” that civilians will not be killed in the strike – a likely reference to President Obama’s disputed method of counting “all military-age males” in the vicinity of an alleged target as militants.

If formal charges are brought against President Obama and his administration they may need to seek protection from prosecution or, once having left office, limit their travel to countries that do not extradite based on war crimes violations. Though given the prevalence of signatories to the International Criminal Court that could prove difficult.

Whether anyone in the Obama Administration will ever be brought to justice is an open question, though it seems the controversy around the assassination program is likely to continue.

CommunityThe Bullpen

Obama Administration May Be Guilty Of War Crimes

File:MQ-9 Reaper in flight (2007).jpg

The Obama Administration’s assassination program, including its use of drones, has already proved controversial around the world. But now questions are being raised as to whether the program violates the laws of war and international human rights law. Outside of Afghanistan, or a “defined conflict zone”, the use of lethal force is subject to international laws protecting human rights. Laws the Obama Administration may have violated in Yemen and Pakistan where they have killed people using drones.

If the United Statesis only involved in an armed conflict in Afghanistan, international human rights law would be the regime that regulates the use of lethal force in Pakistan and Yemen. Therefore, as noted by Amnesty International, the use of lethal force outside of Afghanistan is legal when it can be demonstrated that:

“[It was] only used when strictly unavoidable to protect life, no less harmful means such as capture or non-lethal incapacitation was possible, and the use of force was proportionate in the prevailing circumstances.”

That is a pretty tough standard to meet when the Obama Administration is engaging in “signature strikes” or essentially killing people based on profiling people in a given area.

It is, in essence, killing by algorithm.

Signature strikes target individuals for death based not on the confirmed identity or activities of the targets, but rather “behavioral characteristics” identified as those typical of militants. This is a clear violation of the principle of distinction. Further, Amnesty International questions President Obama’s assertion that drone strikes are only launched when there is “near certainty” that civilians will not be killed in the strike – a likely reference to President Obama’s disputed method of counting “all military-age males” in the vicinity of an alleged target as militants.

If formal charges are brought against President Obama and his administration they may need to seek protection from prosecution or, once having left office, limit their travel to countries that do not extradite based on war crimes violations. Though given the prevalence of signatories to the International Criminal Court that could prove difficult.

Whether anyone in the Obama Administration will ever be brought to justice is an open question, though it seems the controversy around the assassination program is likely to continue.

Photo by US Air Force under public domain.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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