Self-Defense, Sovereignty and the War on Terror

June 8, 2011

A few days ago it was reported that a United States drone attack in Pakistan killed key Al Qaeda strategist Ilyas Kashmiri, without the Pakistani government’s cooperation.  This closely follows the U.S. Navy SEALs’ dramatic, equally unilateral operation that dispatched Osama Bin Laden in his Abbottabad, Pakistan compound last month.  The Bin Laden killing was an important victory in the war on terror, and was lauded worldwide.  The same might be said for Kashmiri, but are these operations consistent with  international law?

 Article 51 of the United Nations Charter reads:

 “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security…”

Do the right to self-defense and the interests of national security include the right to conduct military strikes within the borders of another nation to combat terrorist organizations?  In the post-9/11 world, these questions of self-defense, security and state sovereignty remain largely unsettled, but they will likely become increasingly significant.

Recent scholarship on these and related issues can be found on Westlaw and WestlawNext. In Journals and Law Reviews, try the following Terms and Connectors search: 

drone /s sovereign! self-defen! security assassinat!

Also see: 

UN Charter and Statute of the International Court of Justice:  In the Westlaw database U.S. Treaties and Other International Agreements (USTREATIES),  run the following search:  TI(“statute of the international court of justice”)

International Court of Justice decisions addressing Article 51–run the following search in the Westlaw database International Law – International Court of Justice (INT-ICJ):  “Article 51”