Amnesty International calls on Europeans to come clean about aiding unlawful US drone strikes
This week’s report from the international rights organization focused on its long-held concern over the use of armed drones by the US to kill people throughout the world. Lacking a clear legal justification, conducted with few restraints and shrouded in secrecy, the program has resulted in numerous civilian deaths, some of which may amount to war crimes or extrajudicial executions, the report said. The European countries that contribute essential assistance to the program should evaluate whether their help makes them complicit in such killings and work to make the program more transparent to public scrutiny, Amnesty said.
Started under George W. Bush and given a significant boost under Barack Obama, the lethal drone killings have reportedly been further escalated by Donald Trump's administration, which rolled back the few restrictions adopted by his predecessor and gave the Pentagon more freedom in deploying armed drones. Amnesty singles out four European nations: the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy as contributing most to the American program.
The assistance includes providing intelligence for the US to choose targets and hosting critical elements of the infrastructure that ensures the global communication needed to deliver drone attacks. Italy allows the US to fly drone sorties over Libya from a base in Sicily, while the UK deploys RAF pilots on the command of the US Air Force’s 432d Wing, which operates drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which may indicate that British pilots take part in those missions, the report said.
Amnesty warned that the four nations may be held accountable under international law for whatever violations the Americans have committed with their help.
“Given the well-known and serious concerns regarding the US lethal drone program’s compliance with international law, providing material or intelligence support to US strikes could mean that the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy are responsible for assisting in potentially unlawful US drone operations and may have violated their own obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law,” the report stressed, suggesting a number of moves the European nations may take to address the concerns.
The secretive nature of the drone program and the frequently disputed count of militants among those killed in the strike have resulted in widely ranging estimates of the number of civilians killed. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the number of civilians killed in Pakistan since 2004, for example, varies between 424 and 969. A similar picture is reported in other countries, which are affected by the US drone program – starting from 2015, at least 137 civilians have been killed by drones in Afghanistan, while the maximum number of casualties might amount to 332.
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