First posted on Global Research on 18/07/11 Lesley Docksey’s article is – sadly – no less relevant today. Here is an extract:
“In her testimony to a sub-committee of the US Congress in April last year, Professor Mary Ellen O’Connell made it clear how illegal armed (combat) drones are. The following month she took part in a debate on the subject at Chatham House, London. She made the following points:
- Terrorist acts are criminal offences, and therefore properly dealt with by law enforcement agencies.
- Drones are battlefield weapons and are not lawful for use outside combat zones.
- Outside such zones, police are the proper law enforcement agents and police are generally required to warn before using lethal force.
- Drones cannot comply with police rules for the use of lethal force away from the battlefield. In law enforcement it must be possible to warn before using lethal force (in war-fighting this is not necessary, making the use of bombs and missiles lawful).
She did believe that the fighting in Afghanistan was taking place in a ‘combat zone’, thus in her view making the use of drones legal there. However, under international law a state can only legally wage war in response to it being militarily attacked by another state. The US and the UK went into Afghanistan in response (or so we are told) to the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. No state was responsible for that attack. Therefore in some lawyers’ eyes, our presence was and still is unlawful, and there is some argument about whether it comes under the rules of International Armed Conflict or not. But we have turned the whole of Afghanistan into a battlefield even though we are not, and never have been at war with Afghanistan. So targeting a domestic Afghan compound, even if a Taliban leader is inside, with a combat drone could and should be considered illegal.
Even more illegal is the use by the US of these weapons in Pakistan, the Yemen, and Somalia. They are not at war with these countries. They are still chasing terrorists in the form of Al Qaeda, which they say they are ‘at war’ with and as O’Connell stresses, that is a matter of law enforcement. And to make it even more illegal, the drones are often controlled, not by the US military (who can only legally use them as battlefield weapons) but by the CIA who have no legal right at all to use them anywhere, at any time. And now drones are being used in Libya too.
Read the article here: http://www.abolishwar.org.uk/views.php?p=57