CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Friday, July 6, 2018

Walen on Targeted Killing

Walen alecAlec D. Walen (Rutgers School of Law) has posted Targeted Killing and the Criminal Law (Palgrave Handbook on Applied Ethics and the Criminal Law, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Targeted killing, if not legal, is murder, or at the very least an illegal act of war. Assuming it is not the latter, its legality will depend on whether it can be justified as an act of self-defense. That justification is easier to make if the targets have lost their immunity because they function as enemy combatants. But the law on killing enemy combatants is both under- and over-inclusive. 

To rest on more solid normative footing, three fundamental questions must be addressed: 

(a) Did the targeted person forfeit his right not to be killed? 

(b) Even if not, may he be killed because of the threat he poses? And 

(c) however those questions are answered, is targeted killing a necessary and proportionate response? 

The legal justifiability of targeted killing should aim to track those notions. To do so, the law should develop a clear sense for how they are to be applied, and a standard of proof for deciding whether those standards have been met.

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