As many of you will have seen reported in the media the Waddington Six trial took place yesterday. All six spoke about the dangers of drone warfare and how the use of drones by British forces breaches international law. District Judge John Stoddert listened carefully to everything that was said, but stated that he felt constrained by what he could do. As has been reported in various media, the judge said that he convicted “with a heavy heart” and then went on to urge the six to appeal to a higher court as there were important issues in the case that needed careful examination. The six are considering their next move. For a good summary of the day see War isn’t a video game: witnessing (against) drone warfare.
Britain’s affinity with drone warfare continues to grow. Figures released by the UK MoD in response to a question by Caroline Lucas MP show that between June 2008 and July 2013 there were 299 Reaper UAV sorties that resulted in one or more weapons being fired. We know from other information that a total of 419 weapons have been fired from UK Reapers (till 2 Sept). According to analysis by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the UK is three times more likely than the US to fire weapons from its drones in Afghanistan. Latest figures on UK drone strikes are summarised in this table:
Despite the withdrawal of British forces from Afghanistan in 2014 getting ever closer, the UK MoD continues to refuse to confirm if UK Reapers will remain flying in Afghanistan post troop withdrawal or not. What is becoming clearer, as stated by various senior military officers as the recent DSEi arms fair, is a commitment to armed drone technology beyond Afghanistan. These admissions, especially in the light of the recently revealed MoD policy document on fighting future wars with a ‘casualty averse public’ (suggesting a greater use of private military contractors, special forces and, surprise, surprise, drones) means that British armed drones will continue to be used into the future.
As Martin Newell of the Waddington 6 stated outside court after the verdict: “this isn’t the end of the process – its just the beginning.”