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PhD Defence

The Grotius Sanction: Deus Ex Machina. The legal, ethical, and strategic use of drones in transnational armed conflict and counterterrorism

Thursday 21 March 2019
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden


  • Prof. P.B Cliteur


PhD defences are free; you do not have to register.


The dissertation deals with the questions surrounding the legal, ethical and strategic aspects of armed drones in warfare. This is a vast and complex field, however, one where there remains more conflict and debate than actual consensus. 

One of the many themes addressed during the course of this research was an examination of the evolution of modern asymmetric transnational armed conflict. It is the opinion of the author that this  phenomenon represents a “grey-zone”; an entirely new paradigm of warfare. International terrorism has not been dealt with in a cohesive fashion. Any international prosecution of terrorism which has been conducted has been either “sectoral” adopting a piecemeal typological approach or has been carried out at the domestic level. 

A novel approach to the problem, of subnational actors with transnational reach, was proposed, by attributing certain groups with a new legal personality, that of “Stateless International Entities”, or “SIEs”. Those groups who possess, for all intents and purposes, the same attributes as those of States, could then be judged for their behavior before an international tribunal. Other important topics addressed in this research include an examination of important case law, targeted killing, autonomy, preemption versus prevention, imminence versus intent, the find, fix and finish paradigm, the impact of the media, and the role of the CIA, and finally, the flawed reasoning which adopts technology as a form of strategy.

PhD dissertations

PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD students are available digitally after the defence through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

Press contact

Maarten Muns, Scientific Communications Adviser, Leiden University
+31 71 527 3282

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