Lawyers Challenge Legal Basis of UK Drone Strikes

Click images to download document (pdf)
Click images to download document (pdf)

A leading firm of UK lawyers has today published a 52-page opinion on the legality of the use of armed drones by UK forces in Afghanistan.   In what is sure to cause consternation in Whitehall, Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) argue that

“it is highly likely that the UK’s current use of drones is unlawful. There is a strong probability that the UK has misdirected itself as to the requirements of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) principles of proportionality, distinction and humanity and as to its human rights obligation to protect human life and to investigate all deaths (civilians and combatants alike) arguably caused in breach of that obligation.”

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Drone base invasion steps up pressure on those attempting to maintain secrecy

The Waddington Six: (from left) Revd Keith Hebden, Chris Cole, Fr Martin Newell, Penny Walker, Susan Clarkson and Henrietta Cullinan.
The Waddington Six: (from left) Revd Keith Hebden, Chris Cole, Fr Martin Newell, Penny Walker, Susan Clarkson and Henrietta Cullinan.

Six anti-drone protesters (myself included) were arrested inside RAF Waddington on Monday (June 3). The protest had three aims; 1) to symbolically breach the secrecy and silence surrounding the British use of armed drones; 2) to bring information about the impact of airstrikes on Afghan civilians  and 3) to symbolically begin conversion of the air base to peaceful purposes.   We did this by creating a peace garden within the base, displaying information on buildings, hangars and sign posts about the impact of airstrikes on Afghan civilians (see bottom of post)  and trying to find out information about the day-to-day use of drones at Waddington. Read more

After five years of British drone strikes, five basic facts we are simply not allowed to know

Defence Minister Philip Dunne inspects new Reaper Ground Control Station at RAF Waddington Dec 2012
Defence Minister Philip Dunne inspects new Reaper Ground Control Station at RAF Waddington Dec 2012

Five years ago this week the first British drone strike took place somewhere in Afghanistan.  Like the more than 380 British drone strikes since, details of that first strike remain shrouded in secrecy.

Although we don’t know the exact day (all the MoD reported at the time was that it had taken place ‘in the past week’), subsequent MoD reports have dated UK drones strikes back to late May 2008.  The location of the strike, why it occurred and, if anyone was killed, who they were, all remain secret.

In the five years since, the Ministry of Defence has refused to answer many questions about its use of armed drones.  Freedom of Information requests and questions asked by MPs in the House of Commons have been repeatedly refused on security grounds or that to answer would endanger our relationship with another state (no prizes for guessing who that is). Read more

Obama speaks about drone wars

obama-counterterroismOn Thursday (23 Oct) President Obama gave a much-trailed speech on counterterrorism, large parts of which focused on the US use of drones.  At the same time a ‘fact sheet’ on US policy on the use of force outside declared wars was published, as was a transcript of a background briefing given by senior US officials to journalists.  All of these documents give some insight into the US use of drones.

In the speech President Obama accepted many of the criticisms that we and others have made over the past four years including (as he put it) Read more

Europe presses US on drones – not to cease but to share

EuropeFlagsEuropean countries are piling more pressure on the US to allow them to buy armed Predator and Reaper drones.  As we have previously reported Germany wants to buy armed Reaper drones from the US and France too has reported this week that it ‘expects’ the US to allow it to acquire unarmed Reapers as a step towards it aim of acquiring armed drone capability.

Italy meanwhile is getting frustrated with a lack of response from the US to its request to arm the unarmed Reaper that it currently operates. Read more

First British drone strike carried out from UK RAF Waddington

British Reaper drone controlled from RAF Waddington

Less than a week ago, the UK MoD announced that British Reaper drones over Afghanistan are now being controlled directly from the UK.

This morning  a number of British defence journalists are reporting that the first British drone strike from UK soil was carried out yesterday (30 April)  from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.  No details about the strike have officially been released, nor are they likely to be given the secrecy surrounding the use of British drones.  [UPDATE BELOW] Read more