Document Type

Book Chapter


This is a chapter from the forthcoming book: Targeted Killings: Law and Morality in an Asymmetrical World, Oxford University Press (April 2012).


One of the central controversies of the targeted killing debate is the question of who can be targeted for a summary killing. The following chapter employs a novel normative framework: how to link an individual terrorist with a non-state group that threatens a nation-state. Six linking principles are catalogued and analyzed, including direct participation, co-belligerency, membership, control, complicity and conspiracy. The analysis produces counter-intuitive results, especially for civil libertarians who usually eschew status principles in favor of conduct principles. The concept of membership, a status concept central to international humanitarian law, is ideally suited to situations, like targeted killings, that involve summary killing on the battlefield. This chapter defends one version of the concept, called ‘functional membership’, which takes into account the uniqueness of irregular terrorist organizations. The defense relies on the fact that the alleged dichotomy between status and conduct is partially illusory. Second, functional membership is a hybrid between status and conduct and preserves the best elements of the law of war paradigm with the criminal law enforcement paradigm. Third, functional membership is necessary for applying the pre-existing international humanitarian law standards of ‘directly participating in hostilities’ and engaging in a ‘continuous combat function.’

Date of Authorship for this Version



Targeted Killing, International Humanitarian Law, Directly Participating In Hostilities, Continuous Combat Function, Terrorism, War on Terror, Non-International Armed Conflict