UN Rapporteur: Drones are doing “structural damage” to international security

The UN’s special rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, has submitted a long-awaited report on the use of armed drones. While no nation is singled out, the U.S. is evidently the focus of Heyn’s analysis, which recommends that international law is respected and upheld. Snippets include:

“The expansive use of armed drones by the first states to acquire them, if not challenged, can do structural damage to the cornerstones of international security and set precedents that undermine the protection of life across the globe in the longer term,” the report states.

“The use of drones by states to exercise essentially a global policing function to counter potential threats presents a danger to the protection of life, because the tools of domestic policing (such as capture) are not available, and the more permissive targeting framework of the laws of war is often used instead.”

“Drones come from the sky but leave the heavy footprint of war on the communities they target.

“The claims that drones are more precise in targeting cannot be accepted uncritically, not least because terms such as ‘terrorist’ or ‘militant’ are sometimes used to describe people who are in truth protected civilians.

“Armed drones may fall into the hands of non-state actors and may also be hacked by enemies or other entities. In sum, the number of states with the capacity to use drones is likely to increase significantly in the near future, underscoring the need for greater consensus on the terms of their use.”

Heyns’ report here.

See also a related report by the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson QC, which calls on the US to declassify information about operations co-ordinated by the CIA and clarify its positon on the legality of drone strikes.

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