Agnès Callamard asks for regulation on drone strikes in self-defence

UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings, Agnès Callamard UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings, Agnès Callamard UN/IANS

09 July 2020

Drone strikes based on self-defence could mean the absence of red lines on their use, preventing perpetrators to be held accountable

The United Nations(UN) Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions appeals at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva for reviewing and debating the self-defence claim of the United States on the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on January 3, 2020. The increased deployment of armed drones risks destabilizing global peace and security since they are not yet recognised as unlawful weapons. Agnès Callamard calls for transparency into the use and impact of drones and asks for regulation under the law of self-defence, international human rights law, and international humanitarian law.

If in the past drone attacks were carried out by non-state actors, the killing of General Soleimani has shown that also State actors can use this technology for targeted killings in their own interest. Some rather influential States had attempted to reinterpret the law of self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter. This could lead to a situation where the perpetrators could face no effective accountability for deploying extreme violence, making war seeming more normal.

Agnès Callamard called for a UN-led forum to discuss the subject and demands for clarity on the drone regulation as they are not only key actors in asymmetrical warfare and counterterrorism, but also important for the protection of victims of conflict. In this occasion, the UN Special Rapporteur also mentioned that the trial of the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is another important step towards the international probe of Soleimani’s murder and could increase the chances of international accountability.


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Author: Carla Pintor

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