University of Miami Inter-American Law Review


Throughout the War on Drugs, South American governments have fought a difficult and many times losing battle against drug trafficking. Lack of resources and policing capabilities have lead a growing number of States to adopt so called “Shoot-Down Laws”, legislation designed to authorize use of lethal force against “hostile” aircraft suspected of being involved in narco-trafficking. This article examines said laws from the viewpoint of international law, humanitarian law and human rights law. The article makes the point that mere transportation of narcotics cannot be reason enough to authorize use of lethal force and that “Shoot-Down Laws” constitute both a violation of the right to life and a misuse of the law of armed conflict to justify military action against civilian aircraft. The article claims that other alternatives, such as closer bilateral cooperation and enforcement, must be explored if these governments want to avoid being sued for human rights violations at the Inter-American level.