The Legality of U.S. Targeted Killing Operations in Yemen

Publication Date


Document Type



Politics and Government


Michaelene Cox

Mentor Department

Politics and Government


In its mission to win the "War on Terror," the United States military and CIA have been conducting targeted killings of suspected terrorists outside of the recognized war zone in Afghanistan for over a decade and a half. Despite the use of some of the most technologically advanced and discriminate weapons available, civilian deaths as collateral damage have been reported by the thousands. Such reports of excessive numbers of civilian deaths spur debate as to whether or not these deaths are in violation of international law. There is also the question of whether or not the U.S. has the right to use deadly force against people residing within another sovereign state - even if they are members of terrorist organizations. In order to answer these questions, it is necessary to determine which legal regime governs territories home to terror groups. The two possibilities include international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL). The former governs areas of armed conflicts and allows the loss of some civilian life as collateral damage; the latter governs all situations that fall outside of armed conflicts and prohibits the loss of civilian life as collateral damage. Using the country of Yemen as a case study, this research classifies the hostilities between the U.S. and terror groups within this country, looks at historical precedence of states engaging in war with non-state actors, and reveals potentially grave violations of international law due to the way the U.S. classifies combatants - all of which are used to determine the extent to which U.S. targeted killings in Yemen are consistent with international law.



This document is currently not available here.