The use of drones in the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

As the hostilities between and Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region reach their worst levels since the end of the 1992-94 war, daily reports of drones and loitering munitions being used in strikes or shot down pile up on social media, and the truth and extent are hard to clarify. This post takes a long view and looks at the protagonist’s acquisitions and use of drones and loitering munitions in the last few years and what their introduction means for peace and security in the region.  Read more

New UN Special Rapporteur report on armed drones and targeted killing – its relevance for the UK

Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

Agnes Callamard, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, has produced a new report on armed drones and targeted killing for the UN Human Rights Council.  The report follows up and adds to two previous reports by her predecessors which we reported on at the time here (2010) and here (2014). While reading the full report is recommended, here is our summary and how it speaks to UK drone operations.

Focused on the use of armed drones in particular for  targeted killings, the report  lambasts the silence of States and international institutions in response to the damage being done by their increasing use:

“The vast majority of targeted killings by drones are subjected to little public scrutiny at either national or international levels. And yet, drone technologies and drone attacks generate fundamental challenges to international legal standards, the prohibition against arbitrary killings and the lawful limitations on permissible use of force, and the very institutions established to safeguard peace and security. [Para 1]

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Drones, proliferation and the MTCR: US presents discussion paper  

Over the past last couple of months there has been several reports in the defence and international press that the United States is looking to ‘renegotiate’ the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in order to allow it to increase the export of its unmanned drones. Alongside the US-led initiative to put in place a new international political agreement on the proliferation and use of armed UAVs – which many experts see as possibly weakening current international controls – this new move is worrying for those concerned about international peace and security. Read more

Joint civil society statement on US-led armed drones control process

Regular readers of the Drone Wars blog will be aware that in 2016 a US State department initiative led to a political declaration endorsed by 53 states on the export and use of armed drones. However as we detailed at time, this process had a number of problematic aspects, including the weakness and vagueness of the principles it articulated.

Work is now being undertaken by a group of states led by the US to draft more detailed politically binding international standards, building on the declaration. In this context, a group of civil society organisations have set out in an open statement, reproduced below, a range of concerns about the limitations of this initiative – given the harm caused by and risks around drone technology – and made a set of recommendations for the process. Read more

Armed drones control process must be opened to civil society groups and drone victims

Expanding drone strikes

Details of a US-initiated proposed control agreement on the export and use of armed drones have been announced. The Joint Declaration on the Export and Subsequent Use of Armed or Strike-Enabled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), signed by 48 nations including the UK, sets out very briefly – on less than one side of paper – five broad principles to be adhered to in relation to the export and use of armed drones. According to an accompanying Fact Sheet issued by the US State Department, The “will serve as a basis for discussions on a more detailed set of international standards… which the United States and its partners will convene in spring 2017.” Read more

A new international control regime on armed drones led by the US?  What is going on?

Reaper-17The United States has begun moves to develop what amounts to a new international control regime on the proliferation and use of armed drones.  US officials presented details of a ‘Proposed Joint Declaration of Principles for the Export and Subsequent Use of Armed or Strike-Enabled Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)’ to international export control officials during the arms trade treaty review conference in Geneva this week. Read more