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International legal scholar to give free lecture on drone attacks Sept. 23 at Wayne Law

September 12, 2013

DETROIT — International human rights law as it applies to U.S. use of armed drones attacking targets in Pakistan and beyond will be the topic of a lecture Monday, Sept. 23, at Wayne State University Law School.

Wayne Law’s Program for International Legal Studies is sponsoring the free lecture, “International Law and Drone Attacks Beyond Armed Conflict Zones,” by Professor Mary Ellen O’Connell of the University of Notre Dame Law School. The event will be from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. in the law school’s Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium, 471 W. Palmer St., and lunch will be provided. Parking is available for $6.50 in the structure across Palmer Street from Wayne Law.

O’Connell is the Robert and Marion Short Chair in Law and a research professor of international dispute resolution with the Kroc Institute for Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. She is the author of numerous books and articles on her areas of expertise, including international legal theory, international law on the use of force and international dispute resolution. O’Connell holds a bachelor of arts degree from Northwestern University, master’s degree from the London School of Economics, bachelor of laws degree from Cambridge University and law degree from Columbia Law School. She is a doctoral candidate at Cambridge.

O’Connell was a professional military educator for the U.S. Department of Defense in Germany from 1995 to 1998, and taught at Indiana University-Bloomington, University of Cincinnati and Ohio State University before joining the faculty at the University of Notre Dame in 2005. She has served as vice president of the American Society of International Law and as chair of the International Law Association’s Committee on the Use of Force.

“Professor O’Connell will address the United States’ use of drones outside ‘hot’ battlefields,” said Wayne Law Professor Gregory Fox, director of the Program for International Legal Studies. “Drones would be entirely uncontroversial if they were just another weapon used by the United States in an ongoing armed conflict. But in many of the places where drones are used, there is no armed conflict. One way to look at the drone attacks in such situations, therefore, is as extra-judicial killings, which are profoundly condemned by international human rights law.”

According to published reports, the United States had carried out 365 drone strikes in Pakistan, 45 in Yemen and a handful in Somalia as of mid-2013. The targets have included Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, who was killed by a drone strike in Yemen in 2011.  The United States had connected al-Awlaki to numerous terrorist acts. A lawsuit challenging the killing is pending in federal court.

“Another legal justification would be to say that the ‘war on terror’ is a global phenomenon,” Fox said. “That is, the entire world constitutes a battlefield and so drone strikes anywhere would simply be part of that armed conflict. But the United States does not make this claim, and, in fact, emphatically rejects it. So, one is left with few legal explanations for the legitimacy of U.S. drone strikes outside of armed conflict zones.

“Professor O’Connell is one of the leading voices in this debate, having published on it extensively and testified before several Congressional bodies. We couldn’t find a more informed or articulate scholar to address this controversial issue.”

For more details about the lecture, email international.law@wayne.edu or visit www.law.wayne.edu/international-studies.