A groundbreaking initiative tabled by Pakistan in this session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) proposes to have a panel discussion about the use of armed drones in the counter-terrorism and military operations as recommended by the Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.

A Timely Initiative

WILPF welcomes this initiative to discuss the impact of the use of drones on human rights.

Example of a military drone

Military drone. Taken from Flickr/Serritelli.

Drones have killed many civilians and  their use constantly violates the right to life, the right to freedom of movement and indirectly affects many other rights such as socio-economic rights and the right to development.

This measure is in line with past discussions in the Council such as the resolution on the impact of arms transfer on the human rights of people living under conflict and the report from the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings on Fully Autonomous Weapons, also called Killer Robots.

After these discussions, we would think that the debate about whether the HRC is an appropriate forum to discuss the use of weapons and its human rights implications would be settled. Unfortunately, this is not yet the case.

Supporters and Opposers

In the first round of informal discussions, numerous countries expressed their support for this initiative and many specifically supported the fact that the HRC increasingly discusses the human rights consequences of the use of weapons.

There were, however, some members, such as the EU, who questioned whether this was the right forum and whether this was a matter of human rights. The UK went even further and claimed that International Humanitarian Law (IHL), not human rights, should govern the use of drones as they are used as part of an armed conflict. Thus, they claimed, the debate goes beyond the scope of the Council.

However, drones can be used and are indeed used today in countries which are not declared to be in conflict, such as Yemen. Furthermore, even if a drone is used in a country under armed conflict, human rights do not cease to be applicable, as human rights are universal and irrevocable in space and time.

WILPF will be monitoring the discussions in the HRC and we will continue to engage in defending the importance of a human rights approach when discussing the use of drones, as we are doing with Killer Robots.

To learn more about the use of military drones read this fact-sheet by Reaching Critical Will (RCW).

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