In November 2000, a few weeks after the outbreak of a major uprising in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Israeli government officially acknowledged it was operating a policy of targeted killing against selected Palestinian militants. On 14 January 2002, an Israeli (PCATI) and a Palestinian (LAW) human rights group jointly submitted a petition to the Israeli High Court to halt the policy and to issue an interim order suspending its implementation. The Court subsequently refused to issue the requested interim order and, when it finally delivered its judgment in the case on 14 December 2006, at least 213 targeted persons and 137 bystanders had been killed and hundreds of others injured in operations of targeted killing. In its judgment, the Court neither banned nor justified the state policy as a whole, but ruled that the lawfulness of targeted killings must be examined separately for each operation.
* Dr Nils Melzer is Legal Adviser in the Legal Division of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The article reflects the views of the author alone and not necessarily those of the ICRC or its Legal Division. The author thanks Anne Deniaud for her research assistance in comparing the concepts of proportionality underlying various national and international systems.