69 Fla. L. Rev. 261 (2017)
View the article via pdf

Categories

International LawLaw of Armed ConflictMilitary Law

Abstract

A “double-tap” drone strike involves bombing a target, waiting a period of five to twenty minutes, often during which first responders arrive, and then bombing the target a second or even third time. This Note argues that such attacks, by virtue of their indiscriminate nature, are likely serious violations of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which prohibits targeting civilians, the wounded, or those placed hors de combat. Thus, such attacks are likely war crimes under international law and under the War Crimes Act of 1996, a U.S. law that criminalizes carrying out, or ordering to be carried out, grave breaches of Common Article 3. The First Geneva Convention of 1949, to which the United States is a party, requires that states enact legislation to punish those who carry out grave breaches of the Convention, and further requires that states take the appropriate steps to enforce these penalties. This Note argues that to conform to international law, the United States should cease the use of double-tap drone strikes immediately, if it has not already. Additionally, the United States should make the criteria it uses to target individuals for drone strikes as transparent as necessary to determine the process’s legality under international law. Without transparency on the part of cooperating governments, it is nearly impossible to determine the legality of a covert military program. Furthermore, this Note proposes that the United States and the appropriate legal bodies are legally and morally required to investigate the use of double-tap drone strikes to determine if war crimes have been committed.