This week I signed a written declaration on the use of drones in combat situations.
It has been estimated by the Pakistan Body Count that the use of combat drones in Pakistan has resulted in the deaths of 2179 civilians by September 2011. President Obama made the frankly disgraceful decision when he assumed power in 2009 to increase the use of drones, believing them to be favourable to other methods.
The United Nations have made it clear that the use of drones is, at the very least problematic. On 28 October 2009, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston, presented a report to the Third Committee (social, humanitarian and cultural) of the General Assembly arguing that the use of unmanned combat air vehicles for targeted killings should be regarded as a breach of international law unless the United States can demonstrate appropriate precautions and accountability mechanisms are in place.
On 2 June 2010 Alston’s team released a report on its investigation into the drone strikes, criticizing the United States for being, “the most prolific user of targeted killings” in the world. In a statement about America’s use of drones, he said: “…you have the really problematic bottom line, which is that the Central Intelligence Agency is running a programme that is killing significant numbers of people and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of the relevant international laws.” Alston, however, acknowledged that the drone attacks may be justified under the right to self-defence, but still called on the US to be more open about the programme.
Unfortunately the United States has not been forthcoming about the methods it uses in the selection of targets, nor have they been clear about the number of civilian deaths. The CIA has gone as far as to say that of the people killed during drone attacks, none have been ‘non-combatants’, a claim that was seen as entirely unrealistic Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal among others.
I commend my colleagues Sabine Lösing, Sonia Alfano, Ana Gomes and Rui Tavares for helping to raise awareness of this important issue. If your MEP hasn’t signed then you should write to them, urging them to do so. We must put an end to the use of combat drones.