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  • Human Rights Research Center

U.S. Violates International Human Rights Law Through Use of Lethal Force Outside of Conflict

October 27, 2023

A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone firing a AGM-114 Hellfire missile. [Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo]

Cited article by Just Security

HRRC underscores the urgent need for concrete action to rectify the issues highlighted in the Just Security review, echoing the calls made by activists and NGOs. HRRC emphasizes the imperative of fostering meaningful and transparent dialogue on human rights within the United States. It is vital that the U.S. government takes immediate and tangible measures to address these concerns and actively collaborates with civil society to make significant advancements in upholding human rights within the country.

News Brief

The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) recently scrutinized the United States' compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a fundamental international human rights treaty safeguarding civil and political rights, including the right to life. The Committee raised serious concerns about the U.S. government's ongoing use of lethal force, particularly through drone and air strikes, outside of recognized conflict zones. The Committee asserted that such drone strikes are presumptively illegal and contravene several rights guaranteed by the ICCPR, especially the right to life. This secretive and unaccountable U.S. program has caused significant harm, disproportionately affecting Black, Brown, and Muslim communities globally. Despite international obligations to protect human life, the U.S. has continued these strikes, including under the Biden administration, violating international human rights law and due process rights for individuals.

Additionally, the U.S. has erroneously applied the laws of war, asserting that they only need to adhere to international humanitarian law (IHL) in situations outside recognized armed conflicts. This undermines the UN Charter's goal of limiting unilateral uses of force and violates international law principles that restrict the use of defensive force. The U.S. has also failed to provide effective remedies for individuals harmed by these strikes, and the secretive nature of CIA strikes compounds the lack of transparency and accountability. To rectify these issues, civil society organizations and the Committee have called on the U.S. to cease this lethal strikes program, urging the Biden administration to end this dangerous and unlawful precedent and uphold international human rights and the rule of law.


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