Skip to main content

Press releases Special Procedures

Israel and Lebanon – UN experts deplore extraterritorial use of lethal drones to conduct killings in countering terrorism

09 January 2024

GENEVA (9 January 2024) – UN experts condemned Israel’s alleged killings of Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri and six others last week in Lebanon, which would amount to extrajudicial killings and crimes of murder.

The experts also deplored threats by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior Israeli officials to kill Hamas leaders anywhere in the world.

“All states are prohibited from arbitrarily depriving individuals of their right to life in military or security operations abroad, including when countering terrorism,” said the experts.

“Killings in foreign territory are arbitrary when they are not authorised under international law. Israel was not exercising self-defence because it presented no evidence that the victims were committing an armed attack on Israel from Lebanese territory.”

The experts noted that Israel has neither provided any legal justification for the strike nor reported it to the Security Council, as required by Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

“Any legitimate legal justification for Israel’s military operations against Hamas in Gaza, in response to the 7 October attack on Israel emanating from Gaza, does not extend to authorising strikes in Lebanon or other countries. There is no legal basis for geographically unlimited attacks against members of an armed group wherever they are.”

“Israel has a deplorable history of assassinating suspected terrorists abroad, such as the killing of a Hamas member in the United Arab Emirates in 2010, and hundreds of preventive strikes on Hezbollah in the Syrian civil war. Israeli police and courts must bring to justice all involved in these alleged murders.”

The experts warned that the Israeli strike constituted a dangerous regional escalation of the Gaza conflict, a violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty, and a prohibited use of military force against Lebanese territory contrary to Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter. The Security Council, General Assembly and Human Rights Council have repeatedly declared that states must respect international law in countering terrorism.

The United Nations has also affirmed that terrorism is a threat to human rights. The UN experts emphasised that Lebanon has a duty to prevent the use of its territory to prepare terrorist acts against Israeli civilians, and to investigate, arrest and prosecute or extradite suspects involved in terrorism in Lebanon or Israel, in accordance with human rights law. Other states, including Iran and Syria, have obligations not to support any terrorist preparations in Lebanon or Palestine directed against Israeli civilians.

The experts called on the Security Council to fulfill its responsibility to effectively respond to all states in the region whose actions threaten international peace and security.

*The experts: Ben Saul, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism and Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests please contact: Ms. Michelle Erazo at +41 22 917 9449 or write to [email protected]

For media inquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact the UN Human Rights Office Media Section at [email protected]

Follow news related to the UN independent human rights experts on Twitter: @UN_SPExperts