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Eliminating a specific terrorist leader is a ‘targeted killing’ according to the US. However, Britain’s Reprieve human-rights group calculated that it takes about 28 innocent lives to take out a single terrorist leader, often with multiple drone strikes.
“Drone strikes have been sold to the American public on the claim that they’re ‘precise’. But they are only as precise as the intelligence that feeds them. There is nothing precise about intelligence that results in the deaths of 28 unknown people, including women and children, for every ‘bad guy’ the US goes after,” said Jennifer Gibson, who headed Reprieve’s study.
Over the last eight years there have been several attempts to eliminate an Al-Qaeda leader called Ayman Zawahiri. Drones have proved ineffective - the man is still alive. In two known attempts, in 2006, as many as 76 children and 29 adults were killed.
If Zawahiri’s name sounds familiar to some Americans, this definitely cannot be said about Qari Hussain, a former deputy commander of the Pakistani Taliban.
In 2008-2010 there were four attempts to get this man before missiles from an American drone killed him. But there was collateral damage: the US drones accidentally killed 128 people, including 13 children.
Most of the terror suspects were targeted in Pakistan, where a drone hunt after 24 terrorist leaders resulted in the deaths of 874 people, 142 of them children. The mission registered only six successful strikes.
This makes the terrorist/civilian drone death ratio in Pakistan as high as 1:36.
Distinction is a principle under international humanitarian law governing the legal use of force in an armed conflict, whereby belligerents must distinguish between combatants and civilians. Distinction and proportionality are important factors in assessing military necessity in that the harm caused to civilians or civilian property must be proportional and not excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated by an attack on a military objective.
Proportionality is a general principle in law which covers several special (although related) concepts. The concept of proportionality is used as a criterion of fairness and justice in statutory interpretation processes, especially in constitutional law, as a logical method intended to assist in discerning the correct balance between the restriction imposed by a corrective measure and the severity of the nature of the prohibited act. Within criminal law, it is used to convey the idea that the punishment of an offender should fit the crime. Under international humanitarian law governing the legal use of force in an armed conflict, proportionality and distinction are important factors in assessing military necessity.
Military necessity is governed by several constraints: an attack or action must be intended to help in the military defeat of the enemy; it must be an attack on a military objective, and the harm caused to civilians or civilian property must be proportional and not excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.
Under international humanitarian law and the Rome Statute, the death of civilians during an armed conflict, no matter how grave and regrettable, does not in itself constitute a war crime. International humanitarian law and the Rome Statute permit belligerents to carry out proportionate attacks against military objectives, even when it is known that some civilian deaths or injuries will occur. A crime occurs if there is an intentional attack directed against civilians (principle of distinction) (Article 8(2)(b)(i)) or an attack is launched on a military objective in the knowledge that the incidental civilian injuries would be clearly excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage (principle of proportionality) (Article 8(2)(b)(iv).
Article 8(2)(b)(iv) criminalizes:
Intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated;
Article 8(2)(b)(iv) draws on the principles in Article 51(5)(b) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, but restricts the criminal prohibition to cases that are "clearly" excessive. The application of Article 8(2)(b)(iv) requires, inter alia, an assessment of:
(a) the anticipated civilian damage or injury;
(b) the anticipated military advantage;
(c) and whether (a) was "clearly excessive" in relation to (b).
The law of war is a legal term of art that refers to the aspect of public international law concerning acceptable justifications to engage in war (jus ad bellum) and the limits to acceptable wartime conduct (jus in bello or International humanitarian law).
A war crime is a serious violation of the laws and customs of war (also known as international humanitarian law) giving rise to individual criminal responsibility. Examples of war crimes such as:
murdering, mistreating, or deporting civilian residents of an occupied territory to slave labor camps
murdering or mistreating prisoners of war or civilian internees
forcing protected persons to serve in the forces of a hostile power
killing or punishing spies or other persons convicted of war crimes without a fair trial
wantonly destroying cities, towns, villages, or other objects not warranted by military necessity
The International Criminal Court (ICC or ICCt) is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal that sits in The Hague in the Netherlands. The ICC has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes and it may one day be able to exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression.