Targeting the terrorists: legal, strategic, and political considerations of drone warfare : an investigation into the legality, strategic efficiency, and political benefit of conducting targeted killings by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

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Ferslev, Nils Hvidsten
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This thesis engages in an assessment of targeted killing by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in counter-terrorism strategies. By analysing the conduct of the USA and the UAV- programs in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, key lessons-learned are extracted. The tendency across Europe has been an increase in interest in operating armed UAVs and several European states have conducted or cooperated with the USA in UAV-missions leading to the killing of alleged terrorists. For this reason, research into the legal, strategic and political costs and benefits of applying UAVs in counterterrorism is warranted. This thesis therefore considers the lawfulness of targeted killings by UAVs under international law, and concludes that the deficiency of transparency and accountability of the American drone programs lead to an undermining of the rule of law and international legal standards. Furthermore, the thesis discusses political and strategic aspects of such a counter-terrorism approach and questions the efficiency of a deterrence-based strategy. The thesis concludes by pointing to the possible deteriorating precedent being set by the American drone programs both in terms of international customary law and of international political legitimacy. The thesis recommends the establishment of a European political and legal framework for operating with UAVs.
Second semester University: University of Hamburg.
drone warfare, international humanitarian law, targeted killings, terrorism