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International law and lethal drone strikes

Brookman-Byrne, M. (2019) International law and lethal drone strikes. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Abstract/Summary

Armed drones are an integral part of modern warfare, adopted by a progressively wider array of states. Academic engagement with their use has so far either been general, paradigm-specific or state-specific. This thesis builds upon existing knowledge to present a comprehensive analysis of drone strikes to examine their lawfulness, both as an abstract artifice and through the uses to which they have been put, focusing on US drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Using doctrinal analysis, the use of drone strikes is considered through the separate though linked frameworks of the law on the use of force (consent and jus ad bellum), international humanitarian law, and international human rights law. These frameworks must be satisfied cumulatively for a drone strike to be lawful, thus the question of lawfulness can only be answered through a holistic analysis, and it is such that is presented within this thesis. Generally, it is concluded that armed drones are no different, under international law, from other weapon systems: they can be used in violation of international law but this is not a necessary outcome of their use. Considered through the lens of the law on the use of force it is concluded that, in many cases, drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia have been lawful due to consent from territorial states. Outside of this consent, selfdefence provides only a limited basis for lawfulness. It is also concluded that, in the relevant states, drones have been used during armed conflicts and are capable of adhering to international humanitarian law, though this often depends on the operative interpretation of the law. Finally, it is concluded that there have been drone strikes outside of armed conflict, regulated by international human rights law; though not inherently unlawful, all of the strikes analysed herein violated the right to life.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Breau, S. and Green, J.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Law
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Law
ID Code:88309
Date on Title Page:2018

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