Posts Tagged ‘UAV’

USA: Drohneneinsätze und Völkerrecht

Montag, Juni 25th, 2012

“Drone strikes threaten 50 years of international law, says UN rapporteur

US policy of using drone strikes to carry out targeted killings ‘may encourage other states to flout international law’

By Owen Bowcott in Geneva, Thursday 21 June 2012 17.54 BST

The US policy of using aerial drones to carry out targeted killings presents a major challenge to the system of international law that has endured since the second world war, a United Nations investigator has said.

Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, summary or arbitrary executions, told a conference in Geneva that President Obama’s attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, carried out by the CIA, would encourage other states to flout long-established human rights standards.

In his strongest critique so far of drone strikes, Heyns suggested some may even constitute “war crimes”. His comments come amid rising international unease over the surge in killings by remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Addressing the conference, which was organised by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a second UN rapporteur, Ben Emmerson QC, who monitors counter-terrorism, announced he would be prioritising inquiries into drone strikes.

The London-based barrister said the issue was moving rapidly up the international agenda after China and Russia this week jointly issued a statement at the UN Human Rights Council, backed by other countries, condemning drone attacks.

If the US or any other states responsible for attacks outside recognised war zones did not establish independent investigations into each killing, Emmerson emphasised, then “the UN itself should consider establishing an investigatory body”.

Also present was Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Zamir Akram, who called for international legal action to halt the “totally counterproductive attacks” by the US in his country.

Heyns, a South African law professor, told the meeting: “Are we to accept major changes to the international legal system which has been in existence since world war two and survived nuclear threats?”

Some states, he added, “find targeted killings immensely attractive. Others may do so in future … Current targeting practices weaken the rule of law. Killings may be lawful in an armed conflict [such as Afghanistan] but many targeted killings take place far from areas where it’s recognised as being an armed conflict.”

If it is true, he said, that “there have been secondary drone strikes on rescuers who are helping (the injured) after an initial drone attack, those further attacks are a war crime”.

Heyns ridiculed the US suggestion that targeted UAV strikes on al-Qaida or allied groups were a legitimate response to the 9/11 attacks. “It’s difficult to see how any killings carried out in 2012 can be justified as in response to [events] in 2001,” he said. “Some states seem to want to invent new laws to justify new practices.

“The targeting is often operated by intelligence agencies which fall outside the scope of accountability. The term ‘targeted killing’ is wrong because it suggests little violence has occurred. The collateral damage may be less than aerial bombardment, but because they eliminate the risk to soldiers they can be used more often.”

Heyns told the Guardian later that his future inquiries are likely to include the question of whether other countries, such as the UK, share intelligence with the US that could be used for selecting individuals as targets. A legal case has already been lodged in London over the UK’s alleged role in the deaths of British citizens and others as a consequence of US drone strikes in Pakistan.

Emmerson said that protection of the right to life required countries to establish independent inquiries into each drone killing. “That needs to be applied in the context of targeted killings,” he said. “It’s possible for a state to establish an independent ombudsman to inquire into every attack and there needs to be a report to justify [the killing].”

Alternatively, he said, it was “for the UN itself to consider establishing an investigatory body. Drones attacks by the US raise fundamental questions which are a direct consequence of my mandate… If they don’t [investigate] themselves, we will do it for them.”

It is time, he added, to end the “conspiracy of silence” over drone attacks and “shine the light of independent investigation” into the process. The attacks, he noted, were not only on those who had been killed but on the system of “international law itself”.

The Pakistani ambassador declared that more than a thousand civilians had been killed in his country by US drone strikes. “We find the use of drones to be totally counterproductive in terms of succeeding in the war against terror. It leads to greater levels of terror rather than reducing them,” he said.

Claims made by the US about the accuracy of drone strikes were “totally incorrect”, he added. Victims who had tried to bring compensation claims through the Pakistani courts had been blocked by US refusals to respond to legal actions.

The US has defended drone attacks as self-defence against al-Qaida and has refused to allow judicial scrutiny of the UAV programme. On Wednesday, the Obama administration issued a fresh rebuff through the US courts to an ACLU request for information about targeting policies. Such details, it insisted, must remain “classified”.

Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s national security project, said: “Something that is being debated in UN hallways and committee rooms cannot apparently be talked about in US courtrooms, according to the government. Whether the CIA is involved in targeted lethal operation is now classified. It’s an absurd fiction.”

The ACLU estimates that as many as 4,000 people have been killed in US drone strikes since 2002 in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Of those, a significant proportion were civilians. The numbers killed have escalated significantly since Obama became president.

The USA is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or many other international legal forums where legal action might be started. It is, however, part of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) where cases can be initiated by one state against another.

Ian Seiderman, director of the International Commission of Jurists, told the conference that “immense damage was being done to the fabric of international law”.

One of the latest UAV developments that concerns human rights groups is the way in which attacks, they allege, have moved towards targeting groups based on perceived patterns of behaviour that look suspicious from aerial surveillance, rather than relying on intelligence about specific al-Qaida activists.

In response to a report by Heyns to the UN Human Rights Council this week, the US put out a statement in Geneva saying there was “unequivocal US commitment to conducting such operations with extraordinary care and in accordance with all applicable law, including the law of war”.

It added that there was “continuing commitment to greater transparency and a sincere effort to address some of the important questions that have been raised”.


(Quelle: The Guardian.)

Siehe auch:

US drone strikes ‘raise questions’ – UN’s Navi Pillay
Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns
Obamas leise Killer

HINTERGRUND: Drohnen für Europa

Freitag, Mai 28th, 2010

“Europe Plans Spies in the Skies

By David Cronin

BRUSSELS, Dec 16, 2009 (IPS) – Warplanes similar to those used to bomb civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan will be flying in Europe’s skies within the next few years, under a scheme being prepared by Brussels officials.

Pilotless drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – are regarded as so lethal when armed that some top military personnel have advocated that they be withdrawn from the battlefield. David Kilcullen, an Australian general who has advised U.S. forces in Iraq, said during the summer that while drones had killed 14 Al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan since 2006, they had also killed about 700 innocent people in that country.

The European Defence Agency – an EU body tasked with boosting arms spending in the Union – is now embracing UAVs. Alexander Weis, the EDA’s chief executive, has told the European Parliament that he hopes to have drones flying on a test basis in Europe’s civilian airspace by 2012. Although UAVs are not now equipped to spot what is flying around them, Weis hopes that this problem can be overcome through the development of “sense and avoid” technology.

An EDA source said that the UAVs in question will not be armed and are intended primarily for surveillance purposes and for rescue missions.

But research undertaken at the EU’s behest indicates that no neat distinction can be made between drones intended for military and civilian purposes. A 2006 study requested by the European Commission from the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan concluded that the growing number of UAVs in Europe are being bought for military reasons but that they could be adapted to monitor public gatherings or for maritime patrol. Italy subsequently used UAVs as part of the security operation surrounding the summit for the Group of Eight (G8) top industrialised countries in L’Aquila last year.

Brussels sources say that the Pentagon is taking keen interest in the European Union’s work on drones. The U.S. is hoping that the EDA will pave the way for global standards allowing drones to be used in all airspace, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Following the Sep. 11 attacks, Donald Rumsfeld, then U.S. defence secretary, authorised the use of UAVs for targeted assassinations. While many defence analysts have praised the “accuracy” of UAVs in hitting their targets in a way that minimises civilian casualties, there have been numerous incidents where they have killed non-combatants. In August, a Predator drone killed Baitullah Mehsud, a prominent Taliban figure, in Pakistan. But it also killed 11 others, including his wife and both her parents.

Frank Slijper from the Dutch Campaign Against the Arms Trade told IPS that the use of drones by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan has “lowered the barrier” inhibiting other countries from acquiring these warplanes. “UAVs are the kind of stuff that are developing in a way that is at first controversial but then can be tried in another way.”

As Israel is a leading manufacturer of UAVs, it is expected that technology tested in attacks on the occupied Palestinian territories and Lebanon will be used by the EDA programme. Although drones were first used by the U.S. in south China and Vietnam in the 1960s, Israel was the first country to make regular and widespread use of them, particularly during the 1982 bombardment of Lebanon. In a report published in June this year, Human Rights Watch detailed how Israeli drones bombed several family homes, businesses and a United Nations school in Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.

Such carnage has not stopped some EU countries from buying Israeli-made UAVs. In March, the Dutch ministry of defence signed a contract worth 53 million dollars for drones from the Israeli firm Aeronautics. The weapons are meant for Dutch troops fighting in Afghanistan.

The EDA’s work follows a project on the development of drones being financed from the EU’s scientific research budget. Among the projects financed by that budget – worth 53 billion euros (77 billion dollars) between 2007 and 2013 – is one designed to devise a blueprint for flying UAVs in civilian airspace by 2015.

Ben Hayes from the civil liberties organisation Statewatch said that it is “extremely worrying” that the EU’s scientific research funds are being used to support the arms industry.

Daniel Keoghan from the European Union Institute for Strategic Studies in Paris told IPS that promoting UAVs is “probably the most important” work being undertaken by the European Defence Agency in terms of developing new technology.

Keoghan said he could understand why the deployment of drones for surveillance would be a cause of concern for many citizens, but argued that the EDA is merely carrying out tasks assigned to it by EU governments. “If I was a civil libertarian, I would very much be focused on what governments are doing and why they think we need this technology,” he said. “The EDA is just a servant.”‘

(Quelle: IPS News.)

Siehe auch:

Precisely Wrong – Gaza Civilians Killed by Israeli Drone-Launched Missiles

EDA Chief Executive Alexander Weis Outlines EDA Agenda to European Parliament Security and Defence Subcommittee

The European UAV Road Map

European Commission – Enterprise and Industry – UAV Information Workshop

Arming Big Brother – The EU’s Security Research Program

Euro Police

Fliegende Kameras für Europas Polizeien

Brief history of UAVs


“In Europa entsteht ein sicherheitsindustrieller Komplex!”

EADS N.V. – Drones and UAVs


Der sicherheitsindustrielle Komplex der EU

No Drones!

Nevada Desert Experience

USA: Wo die Drohnen hergestellt werden

Mittwoch, Mai 19th, 2010

“Indiana connections to drone warfare technology

By Fran Quigley

The no-frills YouTube video looks like it could be the chronicling of an ambitious science fair project. Inside a spare Indiana warehouse, a young man launches a thin two and a half foot black cylinder into the air, where its propeller blades keep it hovering vertically. Then it moves slowly across the warehouse, past the Purdue University and ROTC signs, before easing its way back into the waiting hands of the same young man who launched it.

But this is no schoolboy experiment, and the small flying cylinder is no model airplane. It is the Voyeur UAV, or unmanned aerial vehicle, also known as a “drone.” According to the website of its manufacturer, West Lafayette-based Lite Machines, Inc., the Voyeur is designed to allow military and law enforcement to conduct surveillance and “human or non-human target acquisition.” The Voyeur can travel as far as 50 miles in the air and can hover over and/or touch its target.

Lite Machines is based in the Purdue Research Park, which promotes the fact that the company has received a $10.5 million contract from the U.S. Navy. The multi-million dollar military investment for a small company in Tippecanoe County represents part of a $4 billion annual Department of Defense budget for UAV technology, a highly secretive world of warcraft, which is being eagerly embraced by U.S. military and intelligence agencies. Last year, for the first time, the U.S. Air Force trained more pilots to operate unmanned vehicles than it did pilots for traditional fighter planes.

But the U.S. drone program is also being sharply criticized for its role in targeted killing in Pakistan and beyond, which has caused significant civilian deaths and which legal experts and peace activists label as both illegal and counter-productive. The Voyeur is one of several Indiana connections to robotic technology that is revolutionizing warfare — for good or for ill.

Other Hoosier sites of drone support include:

·Terre Haute-based Indiana Air National Guard’s 181st Intelligence Wing, which analyzes data collected from drones hovering over Afghanistan and Pakistan and sends back the results to troops in the field.

·The Indianapolis plant of Rolls Royce, one of the largest U.S. military contractors, which manufactures the engine for the drone Global Hawk.

·Southwest Indiana’s Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center, which has received millions of dollars in military contracts to expand the combat capability of drones.

These developments have been touted in elected officials’ press releases applauding the money flowing to Indiana. But some Hoosiers are concerned. “Our state needs jobs, but I hate the fact that people of good conscience may be sucked into the military industrial complex process of creating machines that contribute to the deaths of innocent civilians,” says Lori Perdue, an Air Force veteran and local coordinator for the peace activist group CODEPINK. “If we could create green jobs instead of war jobs, I bet the guy working the line making jet turbines would rather be building a wind turbine.”

The rise of robot killers

Pilotless drones equipped with cameras have been used by the U.S. for military surveillance since the Vietnam War. Drones with names like the Global Hawk and the Predator conducted reconnaissance over Bosnia, Serbia and Yemen, and now regularly fly over Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Shortly after the turn of the century, drones expanded beyond mere surveillance when the Predator was outfitted with Hellfire missiles.

The drones are operated remotely by computer and video display, often by Air Force personnel in Nevada or Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) staff in Virginia, even when the drone is flying several thousand miles away. The lack of an onboard pilot eliminates direct risk to U.S. personnel, and is part of a movement toward robot-izing military missions chronicled in Brookings Institution senior fellow P.W. Singer’s widely acclaimed book, Wired for WarThe Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century.

As Gordon Johnson of the Pentagon’s Joint Forces Command told Singer regarding machines like the drones, “They don’t get hungry. They are not afraid. They don’t forget their orders. They don’t care if the guy next to them has been shot. Will they do a better job than humans? Yes.”

The extent of the current U.S. use of drones for attack purposes is not completely clear. The U.S. military and the CIA have resisted requests by Phillip Alston, United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, for an explanation of the program, and a Freedom of Information Act request for similar information filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has not yet yielded a response. But it is known that the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command maintain a list of individuals to kill or capture, many of them located in Afghanistan or Pakistan, and drone-launched missiles are a preferred method for conducting the assassinations. The New America Foundation recently conducted an extensive study of drone attacks and concluded that the U.S. launched 51 drone missile strikes in Pakistan alone in 2009, with anywhere from 372 to 632 people killed, about a third of whom were civilians.

The election of Barack Obama ushered in an era of significant reliance on drone warfare. Jane Mayer recently reported in The New Yorker that, within three days of Obama taking office, a U.S. Predator airstrike in Pakistan hit the wrong target, killing an entire family including a five-year-old child. Despite that inauspicious beginning, the Obama administration has conducted drone attacks at a rate that far exceeds that seen during the George W. Bush administration. The current CIA director Leon Panetta has said of drone attacks, “Very frankly, it is the only game in town in terms of confronting and disrupting the al Qaeda leadership.”

At one strategic level, the attraction is understandable: drone attacks do not put any U.S. soldiers or pilots at immediate risk, and the strikes are potentially more precise than traditional aerial bombing. Recent drone-launched missiles reportedly killed the two top leaders of the Pakistani Taliban. Lack of media access to the rugged areas of Pakistan where drone attacks occur limit the U.S. public’s exposure to the unintended effects of such attacks, including the children and civilians killed by Hellfire missiles.

But there is also substantial evidence that drone attacks carry with them significant long-term negative impacts for the U.S. David Kilcullen, who served as a chief counterinsurgency strategist for the U.S. State Department and who helped design the U.S. military surge in Iraq, has estimated that drone attacks kill 50 non-targeted persons for each intended target. Kilcullen told Congress last year that robot-launched missiles lead to a groundswell of anger against the U.S. and spikes of extremism worldwide. New York Times reporter David Rohde recently emerged from seven months as a Taliban hostage to report that his captors’ hatred for the U.S. was fueled in part by civilians being killed by drones. “To my captors, they were proof that the United States was a hypocritical and duplicitous power that flouted international law,” Rohde wrote.

Cycles of violence and international law

In recent months, an object lesson in drones’ role in perpetuating a cycle of violence played itself out in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Multiple drone attacks last summer directed toward Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud reportedly killed over 80 people — many attending funeral services for previous drone strike victims — without claiming Mehsud. The CIA finally got its man in a well-publicized August 2009 missile strike that also killed Mehsud’s wife, physician and in-laws. Then, on December 30th, a CIA informant conducted a suicide mission at a U.S. base in Khost, Afghanistan, killing himself and seven CIA agents. The informant, Hamam al-Balawi, left behind a video stating he intended to avenge Mehsud’s death. In response, the U.S. stepped up its drone attacks in Pakistan in early 2010, killing hundreds, including the alleged planner of the al-Balawi suicide bombing.

It seems inevitable that the cycle of drone violence will soon include robot attacks on U.S. targets as well — over 40 countries are reportedly developing UAV technology, including Iran, Russia and China, and Hezbollah has already deployed UAV’s during its 2006 war with Israel. In P.W. Singer’s March 23rd testimony to the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, he compared the current state of robotics in war to the early 20th century use of the automobile or the state of computers around 1980. “The point here is that every so often in history, the emergence of a new technology changes our world,” Singer told Congress. “Like gunpowder, the printing press, or even the atomic bomb, such ‘revolutionary’ technologies are game-changers not merely because of their capabilities, but rather because the ripple effects that they have outwards onto everything from our wars to our politics.”

University of Notre Dame law professor Mary Ellen O’Connell, who has conducted a case study of the use of combat drones in Pakistan, says these ripple effects have already led to multiple aspects of U.S. drone warfare directly violating international law. Among the illegal acts O’Connell cites are the CIA’s involvement in aerial killing, the targeting of individuals in Pakistan — where the U.S. is not at war and does not have explicit permission from civilian authorities to conduct attacks, and the refusal to provide information to the U.N. regarding the program’s criteria for selecting human targets.

She also stresses that the large civilian impact of drone attacks violates centuries-old agreements on the rules of war, which limit military strikes to proportional responses that do not unnecessarily risk the lives of non-combatants. “The questions of legality and effectiveness are bound up in each other,” says O’Connell, who advocates for a law enforcement-oriented approach of capture and trial of alleged terrorists. “Most of the rules of international law, especially the law on deadly force, are good for us. Not killing people in a way that foments revenge is a rule that goes back to St. Augustine.”

Yet the U.S. drone program is clearly gaining momentum. Seven thousand drones are operated by the U.S. currently, the military budget for drones has more than doubled in just the past four years, and the New America Foundation reports that as many as 211 people have been killed by U.S. drone missiles in just the first three months of 2010. The Star Wars-like technology and the remote locations of drone missile strikes do not seem to suggest an affiliation with Midwest settings, but it turns out that there are several Hoosier connections to this trend in warfare. An ongoing investigation by NUVO, including multiple Freedom of Information Act requests to military agencies, has revealed Indiana-based activity in drone manufacture, research and operations.

Indiana’s connections to drone warfare

Department of Defense records indicate that West Lafayette-based Lite Machines received nearly $2.5 million in U.S. military contracts for fiscal year 2008 alone, including a $1.5 million contract from U.S. Special Operations Command for research and development. Lite Machines did not return several messages requesting an interview for this article, but the company’s website touts the Voyeur’s applications for military and law enforcement, including its ability to locate and detonate improvised explosive devices.

Lite Machines promotes the Voyeur’s ability to fly in swarms, and many military observers say that such mini-drones can carry weapons as well as surveillance equipment. “Mini-drones can be used for the same purposes as larger ones,” Notre Dame’s O’Connell says. “They can be used like a flying missile with explosives that can be dropped by the drone or the drone itself can be triggered to explode. The sky is the limit here.”

The Indiana Air National Guard’s 181st Intelligence Wing, based at Terre Haute’s International Airport-Hulman Field, embodies the military’s transition to robot warfare. In 2008, the base switched from a focus on F-16 fighter jets to processing information gathered by drones. First Lt. Randi Brown, the 181st’s executive staff officer, said that the Guardsmen in Terre Haute are reviewing information obtained by Predator drones and relaying their analysis back to troops and aircraft around the world.

“We receive near-real time video feeds from UAV’s, and intelligence airmen analyze that information and send it back out,” Brown said. “It is like a customer service job, in that we respond to the requests of the folks in the field, whether it be for humanitarian or combat purposes.” Although Brown could not confirm whether the 181st has been involved in the planning of controversial bombings in Pakistan or elsewhere, it has been widely reported that such video analysis provides information used to plan and conduct drone missile strikes.

The Indianapolis plant of Rolls Royce, according to Department of Defense reports, received over $473 million in government contracts in fiscal year 2008 alone, in part to pay for the manufacture of the AE 3007H turbofan engine for the drone Global Hawk. While the Global Hawk does not carry or fire missiles like the Predator does, it is known for its ability to cover tens of thousands of square miles in surveillance while staying in the air for up to 35 hours, gathering data that is used for the planning of drone and other military attacks.

Finally, southwest Indiana’s Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center received $3 million in 2005 to expand the capability of drones in “electronic warfare,” according to a statement by Senator Evan Bayh. Requests for an explanation of Crane drone activity for this article were not replied to, but Freedom of Information Act requests remain pending.

Drone technology’s impact seems destined to expand beyond the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan toward more domestic uses. Lite Machines, for example, advertises the Voyeur’s law enforcement capacity in addition to its military uses, and mini-drones are known for their ability to perch and observe via tiny video cameras in places where humans cannot go. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection is already flying drones as part of its border security, and the Miami-Dade Police Department has sought and obtained authorization to create a program of drone surveillance in urban law enforcement.

To Notre Dame’s O’Connell, the CIA’s drone use in Pakistan is already replacing a difficult but achievable law enforcement challenge—arresting and putting to trial suspected terrorists in a country where we are not at war—with summary executions accompanied by civilian casualties Thus, a slippery slope is already being descended.

“We quickly moved from using drones just for data collection to weaponizing them, and we quickly moved from battlefield use of drones to killing people beyond the lines of any battlefields,” O’Connell says. “So what will keep us from using them with other crimes and in other locations, including the U.S.? In the civilian context, that is something we should definitely be concerned about.”

The overall Indiana picture is of a state with substantial and varied ties to a robotics revolution that is already transforming war and may soon do the same for law enforcement and domestic surveillance. While elected officials like Senator Bayh and institutions like Purdue University celebrate Indiana’s drone connections as an economic victory in a competition to bring some of the billions of dollars in robotic combat spending to local communities, activists like CODEPINK’s Perdue see no reason to celebrate. “It breaks my heart to see what we are doing in Indiana to sustain a form of warfare that both causes civilian deaths and creates problems for the U.S. in terms of our global image,” she says.

With reporting assistance by Jeff Cox

(Quelle: Nuvo.)