“INTERNATIONAL LAW AND THE USE OF ARMED DRONES”: PROFESSOR DAPO AKANDE: 22nd February 2018

 

UNA’s 16th annual Ruth Steinkraus-Cohen International Law Lecture is held in association with the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS University of London and the Bar Council of England and Wales.

As more countries and non-state actors deploy military drones, pressure increases to establish norms and international laws on their use. The high level of secrecy surrounding this will make that difficult. The necessary transparency will require agreement on legal and policy criteria for using UAVs, protocols on the authorisation and initiation of a drone strike, the reporting of civilian and combatant casualties as well as the decision-making process behind target selection. Further, should there be accountability and oversight measures in place for internal review?

Professor Akande is the Yamani Fellow at St. Peter’s College, Oxford, and Co-Director of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict and a recognised expert on the use of armed drones and the attendant legal implications. In 2017 he commenced as legal adviser to the UK Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Drone’s Inquiry into the ways in which the UK works with partners on the use of drones and his 2016 co-authored piece “The International Legal Framework Regulating the Use of Armed Drones” in the International Comparative Law Quarterly (ICLQ) was selected for the International & Comparative Law Quarterly Annual Lecture 2017.

Thursday, 22 February 2018 from 18:30 to 20:00 (GMT)

Brunei Gallery SOAS

Thornhaugh Street

WC1H 0XG London

United Kingdom

 

Click on this link to book.

 

 

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Anglo Saxon alliance helps its ally to kill another 54 civilians – running amok?

Widely reported: on 26 December, airstrikes on a crowded popular market in Al Hayma sub-district in Attazziah district, Taizz Governorate led to at least 54 civilians being killed, including eight children, and 32 others injured including six children.

More than 350 high-profile figures including six Nobel peace prize laureates, former military generals, politicians, diplomats and celebrities have marked the 1,000th day of the Yemen civil war by calling on leaders of France, the US and the UK to stop “stoking the flames of war” and instead use their seats on the UN security council to act as peace brokers.

The Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, reports on Mounting Civilian Casualties (28 December 2017)

Initial reports from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) indicate that on 26 December, airstrikes on a crowded popular market in Al Hayma sub-district in Attazziah district, Taizz Governorate resulted in at least 54 civilians killed, including eight children, and 32 others injured including six children. During the past days, residential areas in Al Hayma villages, including a health unit occupied by Internally Displaced Persons, have been subject to a full blockade by the de facto authorities and indiscriminate shelling that resulted in casualties among the residents and displacement of many families to safer areas.

Also on 26 December, an airstrike on a farm in Attohayta District, Al Hudaydah Governorate resulted in the killing of 14 people from the same family. These new victims are in addition to 84 civilian casualties reported in the last 10 days, including 41 people killed, and 43 people injured by airstrikes in several governorates throughout Yemen.

These incidents prove the complete disregard for human life that all parties, including the Saudi-led Coalition, continue to show in this absurd war that has only resulted in the destruction of the country and the incommensurate suffering of its people, who are being punished as part of a futile military campaign by both sides.

I remind all parties to the conflict, including the Saudi-led Coalition, of their obligations under International Humanitarian Law to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure and to always distinguish between civilian and military objects.

As the conflict in which civilians have borne the brunt marks 1000 days, I once again remind all parties that it has no military solution. There can only be a political solution.

So says Jamie McGoldrick, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and all humane and sensible people.

 

 

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UK & US continue to honour and supply Saudi Arabia despite slaughter at weddings, funerals & in everyday life

Buckingham Palace
3rd August, 2017
The Duke of York this evening gave a Dinner at Buckingham Palace for Mr Yasir bin Othman Al-Rumayyan (Chief Executive, Public Investment Fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia).

Haaretz reports another airstrike on 15th December

As decision-makers and most voters in America and Britain enjoy comfortable lives, the Times and Yemen’s al-Masirah TV report that Saudi warplanes near Yemen’s rebel-held capital struck and killed several people on Wednesday, according to medical officials. These included a group of ten women attending the funeral in Arhab, 25 miles from Sanaa, according to a spokesman for the Houthi rebel group.

Locals said the women were returning on foot from the wedding when they were targeted. Several other women, who were riding in a car, escaped the attacks. “The aggressor committed a hideous crime by targeting ordinary women who were returning from a wedding,” said the father of two of the slain women. The deaths are the latest from more than two years of Saudi Arabia’s devastating military campaign against Yemen. More than 12,000, including many women and children, have been killed in Saudi airstrikes while millions remain displaced, living with shortages of fuel, food and water and the threat of cholera.

The European Parliament takes a stand – but will the Commission heed it?

During a debate in the European Parliament, Green MEP Molly Scott Cato challenged Conservative MEP Geoffrey van Orden over his views on arms sales [see video], asking him whether he would vote to end ‘arms sales to Saudi Arabia that are being used to kill Yemeni children.’

The European Parliament then voted in favour of a Green report, challenging the Commission to introduce an embargo on arms exports to Saudi Arabia. The report also calls for a new process to sanction EU countries which do not comply with EU rules on arms exports . . . a major embarrassment to the UK government which has supported billions of pounds worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

 

 

 

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The Uncounted: debunking Pentagon claims that few civilians have died in airstrikes

 Alex Ward, in a Vox.Com article, presents and comments on the New York Times’ almost unbearably detailed November report.

Summary

The Pentagon claims that its air war against ISIS is one of the most accurate in history and that the 14,000 US airstrikes in Iraq have killed only 89 civilians – those not listed are here called ‘The Uncounted’.

A volunteer carries the bodies of civilians killed in a US air strike in Mosul, Iraq on March 24, 2017. (AP/Felipe Dana)

Three strikes, reported here last year, killed at least 55 civilians including 12 women and 19 children, according to two MPs speaking to Reuters and to local hospital sources. MP Mohammed Karbouli told Reuters that 60 people had been killed, including some of his relatives. The strikes hit a busy tailor’s market in al-Qaim and Robert Cusack reported in Alaraby that others killed were among a queue of people waiting to receive government pensions and salaries from a municipal office.

As Ward comments, killing civilians in ISIS’s territory could really be “a boon for its own recruitment”.

In an 18-month-long investigation by the New York Times (April 2016 to June 2017) Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal travelled to nearly 150 sites in three ISIS-controlled areas in Northern Iraq where the coalition had conducted airstrikes against targets ostensibly linked to the militant group.

They found that the US-led military coalition is killing civilians in Iraq at a rate 31 times higher than its report of killing one civilian in every 157 airstrikes.

US officials routinely note all the steps they take to ensure civilians aren’t harmed in an attack, such as gathering detailed intelligence and attacking sites during times when few non=combatants are likely to be in the area. However, Khan and Gopal couldn’t find a noticeable ISIS target near half of the strikes they visited.

This week Patrick Cockburn wrote about his frustration during the final weeks of the siege of Mosul; he knew that there was heavy civilian loss of life as Iraqi forces backed by air strikes closed in on the Old City, but it was impossible to prove it.

Because the US and its allies have chosen to fight primarily from the skies, as Ward says, it was inevitable that civilians would be killed. Khan and Gopal have now shown just how many civilians are paying the price.

 

 

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Britain, Saudi Arabia and America spend millions on execution without trial

The RAF has dropped about 3,500 bombs and missiles, which the BBC estimates has already cost £150m in munitions. Each Brimstone missile costs more than £100,000 and the RAF has already fired more than 350, according to the BBC estimate, defence correspondent Jonathan Beale said. During the last week alone:

Yemen: air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition left at least three civilians wounded in Yemen’s rebel-held capital Sanaa, witnesses said. The strikes, which took place late on Friday, hit a residential area near the ministry of defence building, which had been targeted just before.

Right: Yemenis wait to collect drinking water from a donated water pipe. The UN has warned that Yemen faces the largest famine the world has seen for many decades.

Afghanistan: the United Nations mission in Afghanistan said at least 10 civilians may have been killed by an airstrike in the northern city of Kunduz last week, despite a US military investigation that found no civilian deaths see later findings here: https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2017-11-15/confusion-and-anger-follow-us-airstrike-in-afghanistan.

The Guardian reports that in a series of messages on Twitter, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said, after interviews with multiple survivors, medics, elders and others, that “Credible reports that at least 10 civilians killed in Kunduz Afghanistan air strike 4 Nov, UNAMA initial findings show”.

Somalia: Voice of America reports that U.S. forces conducted an airstrike against al-Shabab in Somalia on Thursday, killing “several militants,” according to the U.S. military. The drone strike hit targets in the Bay Region of Somalia, about 160 kilometers west of the capital, Mogadishu and no civilians were killed in the strike, Pentagon spokeswoman Audricia Harris told VOA.

            US airstrikes made earlier this month

The BBCs three year summary: the UK has carried out more than 1,500 airstrikes against Islamic State since it began its bombing campaign exactly three years ago.

The MoD said there was still “no credible evidence” that any civilian deaths had been caused, despite the fact that the bombing campaign intensified in the heavily populated cities of Mosul and now Raqqa over the past year.

Airwars, a group that monitors civilian casualties from international airstrikes in the region, has said it would be “statistically impossible” for the RAF to carry out hundreds of attacks without killing civilians.

 

 

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Can Donald Trump really believe this slaughter will “make America great again”?

Britain’s special friend: NATO Watch’s grim update of US ‘defence’ developments

The emphasis on air power by the Trump administration has led to an unprecedented 20,650 bombs being dropped on seven countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria) during his first six months in office and a large increase in the numbers of civilians being killed.

The latest NATO Watch bulletin also reports that Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., the current senior US military commander in Afghanistan, has pledged that “a tidal wave of air power is on the horizon” in the war against Taliban insurgents and that “this is the beginning of the end for the Taliban” who currently control or contest 45% of Afghanistan.

It comments: “The delivery of dozens of UH-60 black hawk helicopters to the Afghan Security Forces is expected to be part of this latest game-changing US strategy”.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told members of two Congressional panels that US pilots will now be permitted to seek out and attack ‘militants’ based simply on their affiliation to the group. Formerly ‘Obama strikes’ targetted Taliban insurgents only when they were attacking US or Afghan Security Forces.

his is the latest move in a series of military decisions by the Trump administration to give more decision-making authority to troops at lower levels and, as Helene Cooper (NYT) surmises, this may lead to increased civilian casualties.

It will also enable Mr. Trump to blame the Pentagon for events like the botched raid in Yemen in January, which led to the death of a member of the Navy SEALs known as Ryan, despite the president ‘signing off’ on that raid himself. 

Reconstruction? 

At the end of July, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), in a Quarterly Report to the United States Congress, 30 July 2017 found:

  • a 21% increase in security incidents from the first quarter of the year;
  • 2,531 Afghan service members killed and 4,238 wounded in the first five months of 2017;
  • more than 12,000 Afghan Ministry of Defence Personnel “unaccounted for”;
  • a 25% decline in the country’s domestic revenues in the first six months of the year; and an increase in opiate production from $1.56 billion to $3.02 billion between 2015 and 2016.

Will “Barack Obama’s campaign of terrorism by drone” be intensified, leading to more shameful casualties among Afghan civilians and service personnel?

 

 

 

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Lest we forget: yesterday alone, 44 airstrikes were conducted by US-led coalition military forces

Airwars is a collaborative, not-for-personal-profit project tracking and archiving the international air war against so-called Islamic State and other groups in Iraq, Syria and Libya. As nine Coalition nations are bombing in Syria alone – along with the air forces of Russia, Iran, Israel and the Assad regime – there is a pressing public interest need for independent, trustworthy assessments. As we explain more fully in our methodology, in addition to tracking the strikes we also seek to assess – and where possible follow up on – credible allegations of civilian casualties. Part of our data is drawn from the US, allied and Russian militaries, which is then cross-referenced against claims by local monitoring groups, media and social media of civilians reported killed.

Overview: https://airwars.org

Airwars reports news from the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), composed of U.S. military and Coalition forces, with a large contribution by  Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates: “On Sept. 27, Coalition military forces conducted 44 strikes consisting of 66 engagements against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq”.

In Syria, Coalition military forces conducted 35 strikes consisting of 39 engagements against ISIS targets.

  • On Sept. 26, near Raqqah, Syria, seven strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed 16 VBIEDs, three vehicles, two ISIS supply routes, a fighting position and suppressed two fighting positions.
  • Near Dayr Az Zawr, two strikes destroyed four ISIS supply routes and an ISIS headquarters.
  • Near Raqqah, 33 strikes engaged 10 ISIS tactical units and destroyed 23 fighting positions, a vehicle, and an ISIS headquarters; and suppressed three ISIS tactical units.

In Iraq, Coalition military forces conducted nine strikes consisting of 27 engagements against ISIS targets.

  • Near Al Qaim, three strikes destroyed two weapons caches and an ISIS headquarters.
  • Near Huwijah, four strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed six vehicles, an ISIS-held building, a command and control node, an ISIS staging area and a VBIED.
  • Near Ramadi, two strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed six tactical vehicles and two vehicles.
  • Additionally, eight strikes consisting of 10 engagements were conducted in Syria and Iraq on Sept. 26 that closed within the last 24 hours.
  • On Sept. 26, near Huwijah, Iraq, one strike destroyed 60 vehicles.’

Airwars is entirely funded by philanthropic organisations, along with significant pro bono contributions from our volunteers. Thanks to generous funding from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust we employ a part-time specialist in Iraq to monitor the Coalition air campaign, as well as a part-time Syria analyst based in the UK. Funding from the Open Society Foundations allows us to employ a full time US-based investigative reporter and a UK-based Syria researcher, along with a part time London-based web and data producer. Our director is jointly funded by JRCT and OSF.

 

 

 

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