Targeted Killing: Drones

Ben Emmerson on President Obama's Speech

By Ritika Singh
Friday, May 24, 2013, 5:11 PM

Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counterterrorism---who Ben and I interviewed for a special edition of the Lawfare Podcast---issued the following statement on President Obama's speech at the National Defense University:

Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights welcomed the President's speech, and the publication of policy principles governing counter-terrorism operations, including targeted killings.

"This extremely important speech breaks new ground in a number of key respects. It affirms for the first time this Administration's commitment to seek an end to its armed conflict with Al Qaida as soon as possible; it reminds the world that not every terrorist threat or terrorist attack can be equated with a situation of continuing armed conflict; it sets out more clearly and more authoritatively than ever before the Administration's legal justifications for targeted killing, and the constraints that it operates under; it clarifies, and proposes improvements to, the procedures for independent oversight; and it sets out the steps the President is now resolved to take in order to close Guantanamo Bay.

"The publication of the procedural guidelines for the use of force in counter-terrorism operations is a significant step towards increased transparency and accountability. It also disposes of a number of myths, including the suggestion that the US is entitled to regard all military-aged males as combatants, and therefore as legitimate targets.

I will be engaging with senior Administration officials in Washington over the coming days and weeks in an effort to put some flesh on the bones of the announcements made today.

"The President's historic statement today is to be welcomed as a highly significant step towards greater transparency and accountability; and as a declaration that the US war with Al Qaida and its associated forces is coming to an end. The President's principled commitment to ensuring the closure of Guantanamo is an utterly essential step. His acknowledgement that the time has come to tackle not only the manifestations of terrorism but also its social, economic and political causes around the world - to seek long term solutions - signals a shift in rhetoric and a move in policy emphasis towards promoting a strategy of sustainable and ethical counter-terrorism, consistent with Pillar I of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.