By Medea Benjamin and Kate Chandley | Dissident Voice | April 7, 2014
Illegal US drone strikes continue (the Long War Journal
says there have been 8 drones strikes in Yemen so far in 2014), but
efforts to curb the use of killer drones have made remarkable headway
While the faith-based community has taken far too long to address the
moral issues posed by remote-controlled killing, on February 13, the
World Council of Churches — the largest coalition of Christian churches —
came out in opposition to the use of armed drones.
The Council said that the use of armed drones poses a “serious threat
to humanity” and condemned, in particular, US drone strikes in Pakistan.
This is a breakthrough in the religious community, and should make it
easier for individual denominations to make similar pronouncements, as
the Church of the Brethren has.
There have also been major developments in the secular world. In
February, the European Union, with an overwhelming vote of 534-49,
passed a resolution
calling on EU Member States to “oppose and ban the practice of
extrajudicial targeted killings” and demanding that EU member states “do
not perpetrate unlawful targeted killings or facilitate such killings
by other states.” This resolution will pressure individual European
nations to stop their own production and/or use of killer drones
(especially the UK, Germany, Italy and France), and to stop their
collaboration with the US drone program.
People on the receiving end of US drone strikes have also stepped up
their opposition. On April 1, a group of friends and family of drone
strike victims in Yemen came together to form the National Organization for Drone Victims.
This is the first time anywhere that drone strike victims have created
their own entity to support one another and seek redress. The
organization plans to conduct its own investigations, focusing on the
civilian impact of drone attacks. At the official launch, which was
packed with press, the group said any government official supporting the
US drones should be tried in a criminal court. “Today, we launch this
new organization which will be the starting point for us to get justice
and to take legal measures on a national and international scale against
anyone who is aiding these crimes,” said the organization’s president
Mohammad Ali al-Qawli, whose brother was killed in a drone strike.
The Pakistani government has taken its opposition to drone strikes
directly to the UN Human Rights Council. Pakistan, with the
co-sponsorship of Yemen, introduced a resolution
calling for transparency in drone strikes and for setting up a
committee of experts to address the legal issues. Despite the opposition
of the United States, which boycotted the talks
and lobbied to kill the resolution, it passed on March 24 by a vote of
27-6, with 14 abstentions. The panel of experts that will be convened is
scheduled to present its findings at the UN Human Rights Council
session in September 2014.
UN Special Rapporteur on Terrorism, Ben Emmerson, also used this
session of the UN Human Rights Council to release a detailed report on
the issue of drones. Emmerson examined 37 instances of drone strikes in
which civilians were reportedly killed or injured and concluded that
nations using drones must provide a “public explanation of the
circumstances and a justification for the use of deadly force.” Emmerson
said it was critical for the international community to reach a
consensus on many issues presented by drones strikes, including state
sovereignty and whether it is legal to target a hostile person in a
These new developments have come about due to increasing public
scrutiny and protests against drone attacks, such as the ongoing
protests at the Hancock, Beale, and Creech Air Force Bases, the
headquarters of drone manufacturer General Atomics, the White House,
CIA, Congress and the Pentagon. The entire month of April has been
designated for Days of Action,
with film showings, talks, die-ins, re-enactments of drone strikes and
other creative actions happening throughout the country.
Activists opposing weaponized drones are pleased to finally see more
movement at the international level, and hope this will result in
heightened pressure on the Obama administration, both internationally
and domestically, to stop its policy of targeted assassinations and
instead adhere to the rule of law.