France court orders anti-Islamic posters removed

(Jurist) A court of first instance in Marseilles Friday 12 March ordered that anti-Islamic campaign posters put up by the far-right National Front be taken down.

The posters, proclaiming “No to Islamism”, depict a fully veiled woman standing next to a map of France with the pattern of the Algerian flag on it, and are directly inspired by Swiss posters deployed during the referendum on minarets.

The court held them to constitute an unlawful disturbance of public order.

The party denounced the decision as “a serious violation of the freedom of opinion and of speech during an election period” and said it will appeal against it.

The Algerian government had issued a complaint about the poster.

Sri Lanka: emergency laws extended

On 9 March 2010, Sri Lanka’s Parliament, which had been dissolved, met for a short session to approve a one-month extension for the nation’s emergency laws. President Mahinda Rajapaksa had signed a proclamation to that effect on 1 March. With three opposition parties voting against the extension, it passed on a 93-24 vote.

Speaking against the extension, a Member of Parliament from the opposition Janatha Vimukthi Perumana Party, Sunil Handunneththi, denounced the government for using the emergency regulations against democratic rights. He also argued that since the civil war in the country had ended more than eight months ago, there is no need to continue emergency regulations. Handunneththi claimed that no actions have been taken on complaints that government agents attacked opposition supporters and that eight new detention centers have been opened.

The state of emergency was imposed in August 2005, following the assassination of then Foreign Minister Laksman Kardirgamar, which was attributed to the Tamil Tigers rebel group. The special regulations have been re-imposed monthly since that time; the Tamil Tigers were decisively beaten in military action in May 2009. Government officials have defended the extension, stating that “operational activities” were ongoing to prevent a resurgence of the rebellion and defeat terrorism.

The emergency regulations have been criticized outside of Sri Lanka. One organization denouncing their impact is the International Crisis Group (ICG). The ICG states, “Sri Lanka has two sets of emergency laws – regulations issued under the Public Security Ordinance, No. 25 of 1947, and the 1979 Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) – which impose severe limits on courts’ jurisdiction and authority to prevent abusive detention and torture.”

CIA drone attacks and unlawful combatants

Garis Solis (Georgetown University Law Center) published an article on the Washington Post arguing that civilian CIA drone operators are unlawful combatants under the laws of war.


In our current armed conflicts, there are two U.S. drone offensives. One is conducted by our armed forces, the other by the CIA. Every day, CIA agents and CIA contractors arm and pilot armed unmanned drones over combat zones in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including Pakistani tribal areas, to search out and kill Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters. In terms of international armed conflict, those CIA agents are, unlike their military counterparts but like the fighters they target, unlawful combatants. No less than their insurgent targets, they are fighters without uniforms or insignia, directly participating in hostilities, employing armed force contrary to the laws and customs of war. Even if they are sitting in Langley, the CIA pilots are civilians violating the requirement of distinction, a core concept of armed conflict, as they directly participate in hostilities.

Before the 1863 Lieber Code condemned civilian participation in combat, it was contrary to customary law. Today, civilian participation in combat is still prohibited by two 1977 protocols to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Although the United States has not ratified the protocols, we consider the prohibition to be customary law, binding on all nations. Whether in international or non-international armed conflict, we kill terrorists who take a direct part in hostilities because their doing so negates their protection as civilians and renders them lawful targets. If captured, the unlawful acts committed during their direct participation makes them subject to prosecution in civilian courts or military tribunals. They are not entitled to prisoner-of-war status.

If the CIA civilian personnel recently killed by a suicide bomber in Khost, Afghanistan, were directly involved in supplying targeting data, arming or flying drones in the combat zone, they were lawful targets of the enemy, although the enemy himself was not a lawful combatant. It makes no difference that CIA civilians are employed by, or in the service of, the U.S. government or its armed forces. They are civilians; they wear no distinguishing uniform or sign, and if they input target data or pilot armed drones in the combat zone, they directly participate in hostilities — which means they may be lawfully targeted.

Moreover, CIA civilian personnel who repeatedly and directly participate in hostilities may have what recent guidance from the International Committee of the Red Cross terms “a continuous combat function.” That status, the ICRC guidance says, makes them legitimate targets whenever and wherever they may be found, including Langley. While the guidance speaks in terms of non-state actors, there is no reason why the same is not true of civilian agents of state actors such as the United States.

It is, of course, hardly likely that a Taliban or al-Qaeda bomber or sniper could operate in Northern Virginia. (In 1993, a Pakistani citizen illegally in the United States shot and killed two CIA employees en route to the agency’s headquarters. He was not, however, affiliated with any political or religious group.)

And while the prosecution of CIA personnel is certainly not suggested, one wonders whether CIA civilians who are associated with armed drones appreciate their position in the law of armed conflict. Their superiors surely do.