Author: Craig Martin

[Craig Martin is a Professor of Law at Washburn University School of Law, and is the Co-Director of the International and Comparative Law Center of Washburn Law.] Over the next few days Opinio Juris will be conducting a virtual symposium to discuss Professor Harold Hongju Koh’s article The Trump Administration and International Law. The article was published in a special Symposium...

[Craig Martin is an Associate Professor at the Washburn University School of Law. He specializes in international law and the use of armed force, and comparative constitutional law He can be reached at: craigxmartin@gmail.com.] Far-reaching revisions to Japan’s national security laws became effective at the end of March. Part of the government’s efforts to “reinterpret” Japan’s war-renouncing Constitution, the revised laws authorize military action that would previously have been unconstitutional. The move has been severely criticized within Japan as being a circumvention and violation of the Constitution, but there has been far less scrutiny of the international law implications of the changes. The war-renouncing provision of the Constitution ensured compliance with the jus ad bellum regime, and indeed Japan has not engaged in a use of force since World War II. But with the purported “reinterpretation” and revised laws – which the Prime Minister has said would permit Japan to engage in minesweeping in the Straits of Hormuz or use force to defend disputed islands from foreign “infringements” – Japan has an unstable and ambiguous new domestic law regime that could potentially authorize action that would violate international law. By way of background, Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution provides, in part, that the Japanese people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force in the settlement of international disputes.” It was initially drafted by a small group of Americans during the occupation, and they incorporated language and concepts from the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, and Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter that had been concluded just months earlier. Thus, Article 9 incorporated concepts and language from the jus ad bellum regime for the purpose of imposing constitutional constraints that were greater than those imposed by international law, and waiving certain rights enjoyed by states under international law. While drafted by Americans, it was embraced by the government and then the public, such that it became a powerful constitutive norm, helping to shape Japan’s post-war national identity. (For the full history, see Robinson and Moore’s book Partners for Democracy; for a shorter account and analysis, see the law review article “Binding the Dogs of War: Japan and the Constitutionalizing of Jus ad Bellum”). Soon after the return of full sovereignty to Japan in 1952, the government interpreted this first clause of Article 9 as meaning that Japan was entitled to use the minimum force necessary for individual self-defense in response to an armed attack on Japan itself. It also interpreted it as meaning that Japan was denied the right to use force in the exercise of any right of collective self-defense, or to engage in collective security operations authorized by the U.N. Security Council. These were understood to be the “sovereign rights of the nation” under international law that were waived by Japan as a matter of constitutional law. All branches of government have consistently adhered to this interpretation every since. In 2014, however, frustrated in its efforts to formally amend Article 9,

[Craig Martin is Associate Professor of Law at Washburn University School of Law, and author of another of the chapters in Targeted Killings]

This post is part of the Targeted Killings Book Symposium. Other posts in this series can be found in the related posts below. Jens Ohlin’s chapter in Targeted Killings, Targeting Co-Belligerents,” provides an important analysis of one of the key questions in the targeted killing debate, and makes a persuasive argument in favor of one possible response to it. In doing so, however, I wonder if it leaves another fundamental question hanging, which I lay out below for him to address. First, however, let me provide a sketch of his argument. Jens begins by noting how the US targeted killing policy, and the transnational terrorism against which it is directed, raises difficult questions regarding which legal regime should be controlling. Not only is there an ongoing debate as to whether responses to terrorism should be governed by domestic criminal law within a law enforcement paradigm, or public international law in the context of armed conflict, but even for those who accept the armed conflict paradigm there are debates over whether the principles of jus ad bellum or jus in bello are best suited to justify the targeted killing. Against that backdrop, and assuming for the sake of his analysis that some targeted killing will be permissible in some circumstances, Jens addresses the question: “who can be targeted and why?” His stated objective is to investigate “the tension between national security and civil liberties through a distinctive framework: what linking principle can be used to connect the targeted individual with the collective group that represents the security threat?” As he explains, regardless of whether one approaches the problem from a jus in bello or a jus ad bellum perspective, the problem of linking the individual targeted to some collective is an essential step in the justification process.