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Document Type

Article

Abstract

Defenders of targeted killings proffer a straightforward elaboration of military necessity in the context of modern technological capabilities and conclude that killing members of terrorist organizations is legal under international law. In this essay, I assert that targeted killings to combat terrorist threats should not be governed predominantly by the law of war but should be synthesized with widely recognized principles of international criminal justice. Targeted killings are now the only aspect of counter-terrorism policy that operates outside constraints of criminal justice and beyond judicial review. That many people are being killed without anything like due process of law undermines the pursuit of strategies to strengthen law enforcement’s role in global counter-terrorism. A targeted killing is never not an act of criminal law enforcement and therefore must be governed by a foundational commitment to the primacy of criminal justice in defeating threats of terrorism.