Prof. O’Connell in Spain to deliver talk on drone attacks

Author: Susan Good

Mary Ellen Oconnell

Mary Ellen O’Connell, the Robert and Marion Short Professor of Law and Research Professor of International Dispute Resolution—Kroc Institute at Notre Dame, delivers a paper in Spain this week titled “The Legal Limits on Drone Attacks in Pakistan”. Her talk at the International Institute for the Sociology of Law is part of a two-day workshop called “Shooting to Kill: The Law Governing in the Use of Lethal Force in Context.”

O’Connell says that combat drone attacks in Pakistan must end, in accordance with international law. “The U.S. use of combat drones in Pakistan between 2004 and 2009 failed to meet the international law rules governing resort to armed force and the conduct of armed force,” says O’Connell. “The U.S. has used drones in Pakistan to launch significant military attacks, attacks only lawful in the course of an armed conflict. The U.S. has not, however, restricted its attacks to situations of armed conflict. Moreover, Pakistan has neither requested U.S. assistance in the form of drone attacks nor expressly consented to them. Pakistan’s weak civilian authorities have protested on occasion, as much as they dare to presumably. There is no Security Council authorization for drone attacks, nor does the U.S. have a basis in the law of self-defense for attacking inside Pakistan.

“Drone attacks are proving counter-productive to the military objective of repressing militancy and terrorism,” continues O’Connell. “The strikes have been, to date, wildly disproportionate respecting civilian lives lost. The principle of humanity appears to have been disregarded, along with the requirement to take precautions.”

O’Connell is an expert on the international law governing the use of force. She chairs the International Law Association’s Committee on the Use of Force and is the author of the leading American law school casebook on the subject: International Law and the Use of Force, Cases and Materials (Foundation 2d ed. 2009). She is the lead author of the next edition of The International Legal System (Foundation 6th ed. 2010) as well as the author of The Power and Purpose of International Law (OUP 2008) and International Law and the “Global War on Terrorism” (Editions-Pedone 2007) among many other books and articles.

She teaches a number of courses in the international law area including international law, international law and the use of force, international art law, international dispute resolution, and international environmental law, as well as the law of contracts.

O’Connell is a member of the American Society of International Law, the International Law Association, the Germany Society of International Law, and the International Institute for Humanitarian Law.

For more information about Professor O’Connell, visit her faculty profile page.