The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate WHO WAS JUDGE, JURY, AND EXECUTIONER
The presidency of Donald J. Trump sometimes makes that of his predecessor, Barack Obama, look like a beacon of light, especially to Democrats. However a particularly thorny issue in assessing these two presidencies concerns each man’s observance of human rights.
In 1992 the U.S. Congress ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which calls for the preservation of such basic protections as the right to life and human dignity. But just as the three previous administrations did, the government under Obama denied that the ICCPR applied to its actions overseas, in particular to the use of drones for the “targeted killings” of suspected terrorists. Nonetheless, international law clearly prohibits the usage of lethal force unless it is necessary to protect against an imminent threat to life. Yet terrorists were added to a “kill list” of targets at weekly counterterrorism meetings at the White House, and President Obama would sign off on the names. He authorized 542 drone strikes that killed an estimated 3,800 people, including a reported 324 civilians. When confronted on the matter in 2011, he was quoted as having said: “Turns out I’m really good at killing people.” There’s a problem with that according to Wolfgang Neškovic´, a former judge at the German Federal Court of Justice: “International law does not provide any legal basis for the killing of suspected terrorists outside of a true combat situation. Barack Obama is not God, to be able to decide matters of life and death.” Soon after President Trump took office, he granted the CIA authority to conduct lethal drone strikes— without special approval—which was a rollback of limits imposed by his predecessor. The result: even less accountability for an already opaque and deadly set of rules.