Even by U.S. standards, last week was a busy one for breaching human rights and international norms.
Following up on the execution of Troy Davis — whose case was flawed by violations of basic principles of due process — the U.S. government threw legal principles out the window with the extrajudicial assassination of Anwar Al-Awlaki.
As Vince Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said about the targeted killing of Al-Awlaki, it was most definitely illegal, as the most cursory examination of customary international law would confirm:
The assassination of Anwar Al-Awlaki by American drone attacks is the latest of many affronts to domestic and international law. The targeted assassination program that started under President Bush and expanded under the Obama Administration essentially grants the executive the power to kill any U.S. citizen deemed a threat, without any judicial oversight, or any of the rights afforded by our Constitution. If we allow such gross overreaches of power to continue, we are setting the stage for increasing erosions of civil liberties and the rule of law.
The American Civil Liberties Union concurred, with ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer saying on Sept. 30 that the targeted killing program which killed the U.S. citizen violates both U.S. and international law:
As we’ve seen today, this is a program under which American citizens far from any battlefield can be executed by their own government without judicial process, and on the basis of standards and evidence that are kept secret not just from the public but from the courts. The government’s authority to use lethal force against its own citizens should be limited to circumstances in which the threat to life is concrete, specific, and imminent. It is a mistake to invest the President — any President — with the unreviewable power to kill any American whom he deems to present a threat to the country.
Not only did the killing-by-drone of Al-Awlaki violate the United States Constitution, which clearly states that “No person shall be … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” but it also violated international norms.
While international law does provide exceptions to the general ban on political assassinations, for example when two states at war with each other, even during war a “targeted killing” is legal only if it meets certain standards.
Article 23 of the Hague Convention IV of 1907 provides that “it is especially forbidden … to kill or wound treacherously, individuals belonging to the hostile nation or army.” Treacherous assassinations, for example by unmanned aerial drones, are illegal under the law of war.
While the Pentagon, CIA, and State Department were committing murder of a U.S. citizen, the NYPD and CIA were quashing the right to demonstrate against social and economic injustice.
As the Occupy Wall Street protests enter their third week, American police state repression is kicking into full gear:
The NYPD has apparently learned nothing since last week, nor since the 2004 Republican National Convention:
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
As stated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Both of those international agreements have been whole-heartedly adopted by the United States, and most blatantly violated in recent days.