Does Pres. Obama Commit War Crimes in Ordering Drone Strikes?

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
10/24/2013
       
Does Pres. Obama Commit War Crimes in Ordering Drone Strikes?

Every time President Obama orders a drone pilot to launch missiles at a “suspected terrorist,” he may be violating international law and committing actionable war crimes.This is the conclusion reached by a pair of human rights organizations that studied the U.S.’s drone war and the potentially immeasurable civilian toll of that policy.

In one of the reports — "Between A Drone and Al-Qaeda" — published on October 22, Human Rights Watch offered a summary of the possible legal problems of the president’s perpetuation of the drone war in Yemen, as well as the methods he employs to execute his assassination orders.

Two of these attacks were in clear violation of international humanitarian law — the laws of war — because they struck only civilians or used indiscriminate weapons. The other four cases may have violated the laws of war because the individual attacked was not a lawful military target or the attack caused disproportionate civilian harm, determinations that require further investigation. In several of these cases the US also did not take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians, as the laws of war require.

Some of those targeted by US forces as terrorist suspects may not in fact have been valid military targets. Where the laws of war apply, combatants may lawfully be attacked. Persons who accompany or support an organized armed group, but whose activities are not directly related to military operations, such as engaging in recruiting or propaganda, are not lawful military targets.

It is almost impossible to know how many innocent men, women, and children have been summarily executed by U.S. personnel carrying out orders of Barack Obama or a member of his administration.

Many of those who are fatality wounded in these missile attacks find themselves within the zone of a signature strike.

A signature strike is a drone attack based not on suspicion of guilt of the target of the strike, but of a “pattern of behavior” by a group that finds itself in the crosshairs.

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