Noting the range of posts on the subject on this site, a reader has sent a link to the Guardian’s latest by legal affairs correspondent Owen Bowcott, reporting that British officials are to come before a United Nations inquiry into the legality of targeted killings.
There are claims that the RAF’s Reaper squadron, controlled from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire and a USAF base in Nevada, could move from Afghanistan to operate in the Middle East but the Ministry of Defence has refused to state what it intends to do with the 10 UAVs when UK operations in Afghanistan finish in December.
The government might face a legal challenge over the deployment of its armed drones as lawyers working with Reprieve intend to bring a judicial review challenge, on behalf of Saeed Al Yousefi, a Yemeni citizen, against the MoD if the government does not reveal its intentions.
The inquiry follows a report by Ben Emmerson QC, the UN’s special rapporteur on counter-terrorism, as we reported in 2013. He says (link added):
“There is a pressing need for clarity, transparency and accountability about the use of armed drones in counter-terrorism operations, and the level of civilian casualties they inflict.
“This week’s debate at the human rights council is a milestone in that process. It represents a serious attempt by the UN and international community to reach some agreement about the legal framework governing drone use.
“The resolution calling for this debate was sponsored by Pakistan, and passed by a majority of states on the council. But it was opposed by the United Kingdom and the United States. It was disappointing that two of the states who have made the greatest use of drones in counter-insurgency operations voted against holding a public debate at the Council. I very much hope that both states will now participate in the discussion and explain their legal justification for the use of armed drones. They need to engage in meaningful debate – to explain the rules of engagement that apply to the use of drones in counter-terrorism operations . . .”
The most infamous Yemeni strike killing people travelling to a wedding: http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2014/01/07/22163872-us-investigates-yemenis-charge-that-drone-strike-turned-wedding-into-a-funeral.
Many will agree about the need to be transparent about the number of civilians who have been killed or injured in these operations.
Some would go further, calling for a ban on the military use of drones.