AllAboutLaw Blog: the legality of US drone strike, pressure on the Cypriot judicial system and more

This week’s edition of the AllAboutLaw blog addresses the legality of the U.S. drone strike in Iraq, which killed the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the controversy of the alleged rape trial in Cyprus and the former boss of Renault-Nissan’s escape to Lebanon from Japan. Plus, the latest ruling that veganism is subject to legal protection as a belief system.

  • Last updated Jan 13, 2020 2:31:05 PM
  • Tuula Petersen

The legality of the Soleimani airstrike

In the early morning of Friday 3 January, a US drone strike killed the Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani. As head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, the military figure was hailed as a national hero and considered by many as the second most powerful man in the country behind the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

The immediacy and surprise of the attack have led critics to question the legality of the killing, which lies very much in the facts of the operation. The Department of Defense has justified the attack claiming Soleimani was conspiring to kill American diplomats and service members. If this allegation holds true, Bobby Chesney, a legal professor who specialises in national security issues, asserts that the airstrike would be within the legal authority of the president under Article II of the Constitution.

However, Heather Hulburt, a national security expert at the think tank New America, argues that such a justification is not so easily reached. In order for the drone strike to be legal without congressional authorisation, it would have to be in response to an “imminent threat” to the United States. Hulburt argues that previous interpretations of “imminent threat” place a greater emphasis on an event unfolding in the immediate present, yet the supposed threat of an attack on US diplomats and service members did not seem to meet that threshold. 

Questions have also been asked about the act’s legality under international law. John Bellinger, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that the facts used to justify the killing and the nature of the threat will determine its legality. An argument has been put forward that the strike constitutes an act of anticipatory self-defence, however, as pointed out by Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, the necessity of the skrike would need to be “instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, an no moment of deliberation”.

Another consideration to bear in mind is the geographical location of the attack. Since the strike took place in Iraq, generally the U.S. would require consent from the host state to carry out the killing. To complicate matters, among those killed in the drone strike was an Iraqi military commander, which the Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi considers an “aggression on Iraq”.


Ethical Veganism “clearly in my view meets all the criteria; it is a philosophical belief, not just an opinion”

Judge Robin Postle ruling the ethical veganism is subject to the same legal protection as other religions or beliefs under the Equality Act.


Firm news

To address alcohol problems within the legal profession, The Junior Lawyers Division of the Law Society will not be serving alcohol during events running in January 2020.

Clifford Chance is looking to boost diversity within the firm through the use of focus groups.

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner has expanded its Paris operations with the addition of 21 lawyers to the firm.

Eversheds has seen its profits increase by 13%, along with its partners’ salaries.


Cyprus’ legal system under scrutiny following alleged gang-rape scandal 

A 19-year-old has been found guilty of lying about being gang-raped in Cyrpus. She claims to have been raped by up to 12 Israeli tourists in the tourist resort of Ayia Napa last summer. In her testimony, the British woman claimed the Cypriot police forced her to sign a retraction statement which led to her being convicted of public mischief. The judge dismissed her testimony for being “exaggerated, confused, contradictory and incoherent”. A Foreign Office spokeswoman stressed the UK’s concern about the “fair trial guarantees in this deeply distressing case” and activists have protested outside the District Court. 



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Check out the rest of them over on our jobs board. 


Speculation shrouds Ghosn’s escape to Beirut

Carlos Ghosn, the former Renault-Nissan boss, has breached his bail conditions by fleeing Japan, where he was on bail awaiting trial for financial misconduct. The conditions for bail included a ban on flying abroad. His escape to Lebanon has left Japanese authorities perplexed at how he succeeded in leaving Japan. Although Ghosn does possess a Lebanese passport, his legal team in Japan were still in possession of his passports at the time of travel. In response to his escape, Japanese officials have vowed to tighten immigration rules, asserting that the former chairman left “illegally by unjust methods”. In a statement issued following the news of his escape, Ghosn declared: “I have not fled justice—I have escaped injustice and political persecution”. Following Interpol’s issue of a red notice against Ghosn, the former boss of the car company will by summoned by Lebanon’s public prosecutor this week.



Recommended reading

1. With reported crimes on the rise, the number of criminal cases brought to trial has drastically decreased. Is the UK criminal justice system in crisis?

2. Harvey Weinstein’s criminal trial has commenced this week in New York.

3. An employment tribunal ruled the current University of Oxford policy regarding retirement age to be discriminatory.

4. Over 90% of American defendants choosing to avoid trial by jury due to fears of greater penalties at the trial stage. How does this affect the justice system as a whole?

5. iPhones are at the centre of a suspicious network of fraudulent activity operating between Moscow and the US.

Two men have won the right to sue the Michael Jackson estate for sexual abuse following a court of appeal judgment.


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