Twenty Years of Drone Attacks,

Mary Ellen O'Connell, professor of Law

On November 2, 2002, the United States conducted its first targeted killings using a drone. CIA agents based in Djibouti launched the drone’s two Hellfire missiles at a vehicle traveling in rural Yemen, killing six.

Several weeks later the Los Angeles Times reported details, including the fact that while the U.S. Air Force controlled the drone fleet, the CIA ran the Yemen operation. Air Force lawyers had raised legal objections, while the CIA was “enthusiastic about the idea of shooting individual enemy leaders…” Plus, the Bush administration wanted a covert operation to try to keep the killings secret. But missile strikes are hard to hide, and in January 2003, UN Special Rapporteur Asma Jahangir investigated and concluded the U.S. had carried out extrajudicial killings in Yemen, unjustified by either the “global war on terror” or consent of Yemeni officials. […]

Twenty years have passed since that first drone strike in Yemen, twenty-one years since 9/11, and thirty since the Cold War ended. These have been years of major violence and disregard for the prohibition on force with devastating consequences for human rights and the environment. Russia’s drive to Kyiv marks a new era. It can be one to which international lawyers contribute constructively by rejecting false claims of legality whether for major invasions or targeted killings. Or the undermining of law can continue. Läs artikel