Thank you for writing and for raising your concerns with me over the use of armed drones. I fully agree with you that that drones must be used with full respect for international human rights law.
In recent years, the use of drones in military forces has increased for the reasons that they are relatively cheap, precise, and help to avoid risking the lives of soldiers and pilots. More than 80 states possess drones, including the United Nations (UN), which use them for their peacekeeping missions. Nevertheless, their use raises a number of ethical, political and legal concerns, because although drones can be used for legitimate defence, they can also be misused like any other piece of military equipment.
Whilst we uphold their use within recognised international human rights law, we strongly condemn the use of drone strikes, or targeted killings and “signature strikes”, against terrorist targets in areas outside of the defined conflict zones. These practices challenge current interpretations of international law. Arbitrary killing is prohibited both within and outside of armed conflict. Only if an armed conflict exists can drone strikes legally be used on “legitimate targets”. We believe that drone strikes perpetrated outside the recognised conflict zones make terrorism more, not less, likely.
The present sense of uncertainty as to the applicable legal standards, the rapid development and proliferation of drones, and the perceived lack of transparency and accountability of current policies have the potential of polarizing the international community, undermining the rule of law and, ultimately, of destabilizing the international security environment as a whole.
It is therefore crucial that the EU engages with our allies, including the US, to establish clear rules at the international level for the use of drones. Recently, in preparation for the Defence Council meeting that you mentioned in your email, the European Parliament adopted a resolution where MEPs inter alia stressed the need for a regulatory framework for the use of drones that complies with international law. Also, as you are aware, last year MEPs tabled a resolution on armed drones demanding that EU Member States do not perpetrate unlawful targeted killings or facilitate such killings by other states, and calling on them to oppose and ban practices of extra judicial targeted killings. The resolution stressed that the EU needs to address the legal, ethical and security challenges posed by the increasing use of drones, including the urgent need to secure complete transparency and accountability.
Labour MEPs remain vocal on the above mentioned concerns. You can rest assured that we continue urging the EU to develop an appropriate policy response at both European and global levels which upholds human rights and complies with international law.
Again, thank you again for you email,