Mary Ellen O'Connell

Mary-Ellen O'Connell

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Robert and Marion Short Professor of Law, Research Professor of International Dispute Resolution, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies

Office: 3104 Eck Hall of Law
Phone: 574-631-7953

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Areas of Expertise

International law, international legal regulation of the use of force, conflict and dispute resolution

A vice president of the American Society of International Law ─ the leading organization of its kind in the world ─ Mary Ellen O’Connell is a noted participant in debates on the law and morality of using military force. She chairs the International Law Association’s Committee on the Use of Force, which just completed a five-year study of the definition of armed conflict. She has testified before Congress and spoken to a wide variety of audiences about the international legal restraints on the use of force and the origins of those restraints in the Catholic Church’s Just War Doctrine. O’Connell has sought to raise public awareness of the new technology of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. “The C.I.A. uses drones to target enemy leaders on its ‘watch list,’” O’Connell stated in an article published in the March 15 issue of America magazine, “but the attacks inevitably kill many people who are not on the list, including innocent women and children.” A prolific scholar who also is doing pioneering work in the field of international legal theory, O’Connell is the author of “The Power and Purpose of International law,” an explication of the foundations of international law and an answer to those who deny its status as law.


Holy Week: Blessed Basil Moreau Lecture

The Use of Armed Drones

America and the World: Challenges and Opportunities

The Protection of Human Rights


ND Experts urge caution in Syria

Al-Awlaki killing was illegal

U.S. is “most definitely” involved in hostilities in Libya

Standing by the rule of law in terrorism trials

Law School’s O’Connell comments on al- Marri charges

Law School’s O’Connell praises Bush decision not to assist attack on Iran

Law School’s O’Connell urges Guantanamo closing

Law School Professor O’Connell extols international law

Law School’s O’Connell assesses legality of Caucasus war

Law scholar supports World Court order to halt executions

Law professor Mary Ellen O’Connell ponders international responsibility in Darfur crisis

U.S. must not dilute prisoner treatment policies


Kroc Institute panel to address crisis in Syria

Law School’s O’Connell to testify before Congress on citizens’ rights during ‘War on Terror’

Chicago Shamrock Series events to include four academic programs

New book edited by ND international law expert defines war

Law professor launches book on international law

Law School’s O’Connell testifies before Congress


Fox News — Why we won: Lessons from the Gulf War 25 years later

The Los Angeles Times — Air Force hires civilian drone pilots for combat patrols; critics question legality

Business Day Live — Is terror a crime or an act of war?

Fox News — ISIS after Paris: War will fail. Here’s what will work

CNN — How to defeat ISIS

The Chronicle — The Doubtful Ethics of Drone Warfare

The Huffington Post — Kunduz Hospital Bombing: Probable Cause the US Committed a War Crime

The Guardian — Doctors Without Borders airstrike: US alters story for fourth time in four days

The Guardian — Drone strikes by UK and Pakistan point to Obama’s counter-terror legacy

UPINSA leaks: Israel assasinated Syrian military official linked to Hezbollah in 2008

The Guardian — Woman seized in anti-Isis raid poses policy problems for US

The New York Times — Drones Are Illegal Beyond the Battlefield

The Guardian — Obama: US was not ‘cavalier’ over hostage drone killings

Slate — CIA Worked Closely With Mossad to Assassinate Senior Hezbollah Figure

Washington Post — CIA and Mossad killed senior Hezbollah figure in car bombing

The Washington Post — CIA and Mossad killed senior Hezbollah figure in car bombing

The Guardian — CIA report: ‘Torture is a crime and those responsible must be brought to justice’

ABC Fact Check — It’s war, not ‘a mission’: Abbott incorrect on Iraq action

NPR — Some Democrats At Odds Over Obama’s Claim To Airstrike Authority

The Guardian — US officials unclear on threat posed by obscure al-Qaida cell in Syria

NPR — Obama Has Support For Syria Strikes, But Are They Legal?

Los Angeles Times — Airstrikes in Syria also target little-known Khorasan Group

The Guardian — Obama hails Arab allies and says Isis offensive is not ’America’s fight alone’

The Guardian — Legal basis for Iraq troop deployment called into question as days wear on

The Guardian — Isis incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan pushing Obama to consider air strikes

The New York Times — Court Releases Large Parts of Memo Approving Killing of American in Yemen

CNN — Why U.S. raid in Libya is a sign of hope

Reuters — Despite Obama’s new rules, no end in sight for drone war

Associated Press — US suspect possibly targeted for drone attack

New York Times — Deciding When to Use Force for Humane Reasons

New York Times — Attack Needs U.N. Approval to Be Legal

Wall Street Journal — Why International Law Frowns on Syria Assault

Huffington Post — Killing Civilians to Protect Civilians in Syria

CNN International — Why U.S. needs U.N. OK on Syria

Christian Science Monitor — Why Obama, when moving to punish Syria, is unlikely to go it alone

New York Times — Attack Needs U.N. Approval to Be Legal

McClatchy — Why the US won’t declare war on Syria

The Atlantic — The Killing Machines

Huffington Post — Drone Attacks Spur Legal Debate On Definition Of ‘Battlefield’

Associated Press — Lawmakers Test Legal Waters For Regulating Drones

New York Times — A Contradiction in Terms

NBC — 4 key questions about controversial Justice Department drone memo

CNN — On drone killings, Brennan doesn’t uphold our values

WTTW — Unmanned Drones

CNN — When are drone killings illegal? (op-ed)

The Guardian (U.K.) — The legal dilemma over drone strikes: justified killings or war crimes?

Miami Herald — Families of killed al-Qaida figures file wrongful death suit against U.S. officials

Inter Press Service — Families of U.S. Victims of Drone Attacks Sue Top Officials

The Guardian — US drone strikes in Yemen crucial to prevent terrorist threat, Panetta says

Rolling Stone — The Rise of the Killer Drones: How America Goes to War in Secret

Russia Today — As Masks Fall, is ‘Murder, Inc.’ the real face of the US?’

BBC News — How Iran might respond to Israeli attack

Associated Press — Holder gives legal defense for al-Awlaki killing

NPR — Holder Spells Out Why Drones Target U.S. Citizens

NPR — Obama’s Military Tactics: Risky Missions, Elite Units

The Guardian — Why Obama’s ‘targeted killing’ is worse than Bush’s torture

Al-Jazeera—Targeted killing and the ‘War on Terror’

Washington Post — Administration should do more to defend the Awlaki strike

NPR — Op-Ed: Legality And Wisdom Of Killing Al-Awlaki

PBS — Using Drones Outside Combat Zones

Reuters — Killing of American in Yemen raises legal questions

CNN — U.S. drone killing of American al-Awlaki prompts legal, moral debate

Huffington Post — Al-Awlaki Killing In Yemen Raises Constitutional Questions

Financial Times — CIA kills al-Qaeda cleric

PBS — The Ethics of Drones

New York Times — A Moral Flip-Flop? Defining a War

Al-Jazeera — The US love affair with drones

NPR — Popularity Of Drones Takes Off For Many Countries

WFAE 90.7 FM — Human Rights Defender Now Fights For U.S. Policy

Minnesota Public Radio — Human Rights Defender Now Fights For U.S. Policy

NPR — Human Rights Defender Now Fights For U.S. Policy

CNN — U.S. strains credibility on its Libya role

NPR — Debate: Did Obama Overstep His Authority In Libya?

Foreign Policy — The bin Laden aftermath: Abbottabad and international law

CNN — Drone warfare won’t win in Libya

Inside Higher Ed — The Use of Armed Drones

Wall Street Journal — U.S. Works with Sudan on Gitmo

NPR — Legal Questions Raised Over CIA Drone Strikes

America Magazine — Flying Blind: U.S. combat drones operate outside international law

NPR — Airstrikes In Pakistan’s Tribal Areas Legally Murky