Academic journal article Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law

Targeting with Drone Technology: Humanitarian Law Implications

Academic journal article Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law

Targeting with Drone Technology: Humanitarian Law Implications

Article excerpt

This panel was convened at 7:00 a.m., Friday, March 25, by Naureen Shah of the Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School. Opening remarks were also made by Rashmi Chopra and Anil Vassanji of the Human Rights Clinic, Columbia Law School. The panel was moderated by Naz Modirzadeh of the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research, Harvard University, who introduced the discussants: Chris Jenks of the U.S. Army; and Nils Melzer of the International Committee of the Red Cross.


Good morning, everyone. I'd like to welcome you to our session about drone technology and humanitarian law implications, sponsored by the Lieber Society and the ASIL Human Rights Interest Group.

This morning, you will be hearing from our lead discussants, Nils Melzer and Chris Jenks, in a discussion moderated by Naz Modirzadeh from the Harvard Program on Humanitarian Law and Conflict Research, and you will also be hearing from students at Columbia Law School's Human Rights Institute about a paper which should be circulated among you and which you may have read at six o'clock this morning about the research that the clinic has been doing on drone technology.

We at the Human Rights Institute, of which our clinic is a part, are especially excited about this morning's session, not just because ASIL provided such a great opportunity to present the research that we have been doing and not just because of the kinds of people that ASIL generally brings together every year, but because of the sponsorship of the Lieber Society and the Human Rights Interest Group. We think that we have a great opportunity this morning to have a discussion about these issues among a really diverse group of individuals with different backgrounds.

We can come together and talk about issues raised by drone technology and targeting operations that in other contexts are highly contentious, and, of course, here they will probably remain so, but we can seek to do so in a way that I think is more oriented toward a discussion about placing recent statements by the U.S. government in the context of our ongoing scholarly debates without devolving into a heated discussion about the merits of that enterprise.

I think everyone here in the room is interested in a discussion rather than focusing on disagreements.

We are especially grateful to many of you in the room to whom we have reached out in the course of our research. The clinic started looking at this issue just in the fall of this year, and so many of you have made contributions in this field on unrelated issues to drone technology, and we found again and again in doing our research that we relied heavily on your tremendous contributions. You've been thinking about these issues longer and harder than we have, by far. You spent lifetimes exploring these issues, and yet you welcomed our intervention and our interest. And we are really thankful and grateful to the individuals from the Human Rights Interest Group and the Lieber Society who helped organize the session.

We're also excited about this session because it seems especially appropriate to talk about U.S. targeting operations in light of the address given last year by Legal Adviser Harold Koh, here at the ASIL Annual Meeting. So many scholars and observers have sought to understand his remarks and to put them into context of ongoing debates and ongoing scholarship.

In his address, Legal Adviser Koh spoke not just about the role of international law in U.S. policy generally, but he specifically spoke about the role of international law in ensuring that U.S. targeting operations are in compliance with, in particular, the law of armed conflict.

He really reaffirmed the relevancy of international law in very important ways that the students will talk about.

For Peter Rosenblum, who as many of you know is the faculty co-director of the Human Rights Institute, and myself in thinking about the student research, Legal Adviser Koh's speech here at ASIL was a point of entry for thinking about the international law issues, and it was a starting point for us to understand U. …

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