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Drone Attacks UN Rights Experts Express Concern About the Potential Illegal Use of Armed Drone

Drone Attacks UN Rights Experts Express Concern About the Potential Illegal Use of Armed Drone

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Published by: Thavam on Oct 29, 2013
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10/29/2013

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NEW YORK (25 October 2013) – Two United Nations human rights experts todayexpressed concern about the potential illegal use of armed drones. In two separatereports to the UN General Assembly, the experts called upon States to be transparentin their use of drones as weapons, to investigate allegations of violations of the right tolife through drone killings, and to respect all applicable international law standards.The UN Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, focuses his reporton the use of armed drones in counter-terrorism operations and its civilian impact. TheUN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Christof Heyns, analyses in his reportthe use of lethal force through armed drones from the perspective of the right to lifeand international norms in this regard.
Civilian impact and the right to life
“I urge States to declassify, to the maximum extent possible, information relevant totheir lethal extra-territorial counter-terrorism operations and to release its own data onthe level of civilian casualties inflicted through the use of drones,” the UN expert oncounter-terrorism said.Mr. Emmerson is currently investigating the use of drones in lethal extra-territorialcounter-terrorism operations to evaluate allegations that the increasing use of droneshas caused disproportionate civilian casualties“The right to life is widely regarded as the ‘supreme right’. Armed drones are notillegal, but as lethal weapons they may be easily abused and lead to unlawful loss of 
 
life, if used inappropriately,” the UN expert on extrajudicial killings said.“If the right to life is to be secured in the use of drones, it is imperative that thelimitations posed by international law on the use of lethal force, as for any other lethalweapon, are strictly adhered to and not weakened by broad justifications of dronestrikes,” Mr. Heyns emphasized.
Legal issues
“Both States using drones and States on whose territory drones are used have their own obligations to respect international standards and prevent violations,” Mr. Heynspointed out, while emphasising that “the legal framework for maintaining internationalpeace and the protection of the right to life is a coherent and well-established system.“There is no need for new law,” the human rights expert says in his report, cautioningagainst the wide and permissive interpretations of the current international rules andstandards.The UN expert on counter-terrorism noted, “there are a number of legal questions onwhich either no clear international consensus, or where current practices andinterpretations appear to need further discussion.”“There is an urgent and imperative need to seek agreement between States on theseissues,” Mr. Emmerson said, as he explained to the UN General Assembly the mainareas of controversy and the competing arguments.
Accountability and transparency
In their reports, both experts stress the crucial importance of transparency andaccountability obligations of States, and offer concrete recommendations to theinternational community in this regard.“The single greatest obstacle to an evaluation of the civilian impact of drone strikes islack of transparency”, Mr. Emmerson said. “In any case in which civilians have been,or appear to have been killed, the State responsible is under an obligation to conducta prompt, independent and impartial fact-finding inquiry and to provide a detailedpublic explanation.”“States must be transparent about the development, acquisition and use of armeddrones. They must publicly disclose the legal basis for the use of drones, operationalresponsibility, criteria for targeting, impact (including civilian casualties), andinformation about alleged violations, investigations and prosecutions”, Mr. Heynsurged.
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