In a side-event to the 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, hosted by Reprieve and PAX on September 24, 2021, a panel of experts discussed human rights and accountability challenges surrounding the use of armed drones.
The panelists were:
- HE Mr. Mir Shahzad Akbar, Advisor to the Prime Minister Pakistan on Accountability and the Interior
- Prof. Fionnula D. Ní Aoláin, UN Special Rapporteur on Counterterrorism and Human Rights
- Ms. Jelia Sane, Barrister who specialises in international law and children’s rights at Doughty Street Chambers
- Ms. Ishraq Al Maqtari, Human Rights Lawyer/Investigator at the UN-mandated National Commission for Investigation into Allegations of Violations of Human Rights of Yemen
- Mr. Ahmed Ali Jaber, lead claimant in ongoing litigation currently before the Constitutional Court in Germany.
Mr. Mir Akbar reflected that despite the tireless efforts of communities affected by CIA drone strikes in Pakistan to bring the issue to international attention, the use of armed drones is still characterised by a lack of transparency, justice, and accountability. He stressed the need for a strong regulatory framework, and compensation for victims, noting that drone technology is effectively ‘giving permission to kill on a whim.’
Prof. Fionnula D. Ní Aoláin explained that the absence of an internationally agreed definition of terrorism has provided enormous latitude for states to carry out unlawful operations. She listed as key priorities the (i) need for international legal clarification to regulate the use of drone technologies (ii) to address the ongoing impunity for unlawful drone attacks carried out in the past and (iii) to ensure adequate compensation and acknowledgment for victims.
Ms. Jelia Sane explained that the effects of armed drones on children are often overlooked. She highlighted the long-term impact on children’s psychological health and explained how strikes push them deeper into poverty. She illustrated the issue with a case filed by Reprieve and Doughty Street Chambers concerning the targeting of families.
Ms. Ishraq Al Maqtari described her work to the National Commission in Yemen. She explained the process of conducting on-the-ground investigations into drone strikes in Yemen and the Commission’s findings on the issue. You can read Ms. Maqtari’s statement in English and Arabic as the sound quality is unclear.
Ahmed Ali Jaber spoke about the US drone strike that killed his uncle and cousin. Ahmed narrated the impacts these drone operations have had on him, his family, and the entire community.
Get in touch at [email protected] for more information.