The ICJ prepared an oral statement to the UN Human Rights Council in response to a report on armed drones presented to the Council by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights while countering terrorism, Ben Emmerson, on 11 March 2014.
The ICJ expressed appreciation at the focus of the report on the use of remotely piloted aircraft in counter-terrorism operations, and particularly with the Special Rapporteur’s assessment that the single greatest obstacle to an evaluation of the impact of drone strikes is lack of transparency. Lack of transparency creates an accountability vacuum and prevents effective access to justice.
In addition to sources of a legal obligation of transparency, the ICJ refers to the Tshwane Global Principles on National Security and the Right to Information.
The ICJ stressed that a number of attacks documented in the report occurred outside of the context of any armed conflict, and thus were fully subject to international human rights law with no role for the special and potentially more permissive rules of international human applicable in situations of armed conflict.
The ICJ agreed a number of points raised in the report of the Special Rapporteur were matters of controversy between states, but at the same time recalled that a lack of consensus did not necessarily mean that international law did not already provide definite answers to the issues.
The ICJ further suggested that principles and guidelines on the use of remotely piloted aircraft in counter-terrorism operations should be based on legal analysis, framed from the perspective of ensuring States’ compliance with international law; and justice and redress for victims of human rights violations and/or violations under international humanitarian law.
Due to the very limited time allocated to non-governmental organisations during the Interactive Dialogue on the Report, the ICJ was not able actually to read out its oral statement, but is making it public and has communicated its contents to the Special Rapporteur.
The oral statement can be downloaded in PDF here: ICJ-HRC25-SRCT-OralStatement-Drones.
The Report by the Special Rapporteur is available here.
For further information please contact: Mr Alex Conte (alex.conte(a)icj.org), ICJ International Law and Protection ProgrammesAdvocacyNon-legal submissions