|Assassination or killing?|
Analysis of a word, by John Daniszewski who "is the Vice President and Editor at Large for Standards of The Associated Press. He is a former foreign correspondent who has reported from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia for The AP and the Los Angeles Times, a member of the board of the Pulitzer Prize, and an advocate for the safety of journalists. "
Was the drone attack on Iranian general an assassination?
By JOHN DANISZEWSKI January 4, 2020
full article at apnews.com
NEW YORK (AP) — After Friday’s targeted killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, newsrooms struggled with the question: Had the United States just carried out an assassination? And should news stories about the killing use that term?
The AP Stylebook, considered a news industry bible, defines assassination as “the murder of a politically important or prominent individual by surprise attack.”
Although the United States and Iran have long been adversaries and engaged in a shadow war in the Middle East and elsewhere, the U.S. has never declared formal war on Iran. So the targeted killing of a high Iranian state and military official by a surprise attack was “clearly an assassination,” said Mary Ellen O’Connell, an expert in international law and the laws of war at the University of Notre Dame School of Law.
Just as clearly, the Trump administration doesn’t agree.
Though a statement issued by the Pentagon said the attack was specifically intended to kill Soleimani and that it was ordered “at the direction of the President,” it also characterized the killing as defensive, to protect U.S. military forces abroad, and stated that Soleimani was actively developing plans “to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” Subsequent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Donald Trump also characterized the killing as punishment of Soleimani for past blood on his hands.
O’Connell’s counterargument: Whether the killing is framed as part of an armed conflict between two states or as a police action intended to deter terrorism, it cannot be characterized as an act of self-defense because there was never a full-fledged and direct attack on the United States by Iran. The United States’s legal reason for being in Iraq is to deter the Islamic State group, not to fight against Iran, she noted, and the attacks against the U.S. by Iranian-backed militias in recent months have been intermittent and relatively limited.
“Assassination is prohibited both in peacetime law as well as on the battlefield,” she said.
“We have really moved to a nearly lawless state,” she said. If the justification for a military response is self-defense, the response should be “necessary and proportionate.” But that would not justify individual targeted killings, she said.
For Iran, Soleimani’s killing was a “horrific assassination,” wrote Majid Takht Ravanchi, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations.
It is “an obvious example of state terrorism, and, as a criminal act, constitutes a gross violation of the fundamental principles of international law,” Ravanchi wrote in a letter to the U.N. secretary-general.
The premeditated killing of a specific individual commander for what they have done on the battlefield or what they may do has been prohibited by the law of armed conflict dating from the Hague Conventions of 1907, and by a protocol of the Geneva Convention in 1949 saying “it is prohibited to kill, injure or capture an adversary by perfidy,” she added.
continues at apnews.com