Sometimes you don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the irony of life… Federal aviation officials in the US have issued a statement warning that people who fire guns at drones could be prosecuted or fined.  There is a concern that doing so “could cause them to crash, injuring people or damaging property” . This declaration was in response to the suggestion of granting folks a 25 dollar permit to hunt down a drone, a sport thought likely to catch on! http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/07/19/faa-warns-public-against-shooting-guns-at-drones/

Life however comes cheap, especially if you are unfortunate enough to reside in an area of the world frequently hit by missiles from US drones… The US has been happily firing on people for several years with spies on the ground paid to assist in locating “targets” and bodies blown to smithereens or burnt to a cinder. The American governments has defended its signature strikes on “suspected” militants (where govt is not sure who it is hitting but will have a go anyway). They have proudly argued that this is legal despite the “bug splat” often child victims in the vicinity.

There has been no concern regarding drones dropping out of the skies harming those on the ground in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan or Afghanistan… and drones have come down. The only concern from the White House appears to be worries about whether the Taliban might locate a drone once on terra firma and gain knowledge of the technology.

However, this blasé attitude from governments towards killing by drone is being questioned more and more by judges, civil liberties/ human rights organizations and politicians with a conscience. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights (New York) are challenging the drone killing of three Americans (one, a 16 year old American boy, Abdulrahman) in the case of Al-Aulaki v Panetta, see details on link below,


ACLU attorney, Hina Shamsi, states that:

The Constitution does not allow government officials to kill Americans based on vague and shifting legal criteria and evidence never presented to a court. The government has argued that the court should step aside when the executive branch conducts extrajudicial killings of American citizens abroad, but the Supreme Court has ruled that the judiciary has an essential role to play in protecting civil liberties even in the context of actual military conflict. The Constitution’s protections are never more crucial than when the government seeks to deprive people of their lives.

U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary M. Collyer has clearly announced that it is “disconcerting” regarding the Obama administration’s position that courts have no role in a lawsuit over the 2011 drone-strike killings of three U.S. citizens in Yemen, including an al-Qaida cleric… details here http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10900654

Whether any US judge will ever rule these drone strikes unlawful and governments fully accountable for deaths remains to be seen.

Meanwhile in the UK a group of Public Interest Lawyers have produced a detailed legal opinion, The Legality Of The UK’s Use Of Armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Drones) which was highlighted this week by the All Party Parliamentary Group On Drones (APPG). The following paragraph sums up the conclusion of the lawyers and no doubt will have the British government officials scrambling for the phone number of their own legal team to mull over the findings which are as follows:-

In brief, we conclude that in the absence of international agreements, armed drones themselves are unlikely to be illegal per se, but that fully automated drones would breach international law. As to whether the UK’s use of drones in Afghanistan breaches international law: we have evaluated the available evidence of the UK’s prolific use of drones in Afghanistan in light of the onerous restrictions which international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) place upon their use. We conclude that it is highly likely that the UK’s current use of drones is unlawful. There is a strong probability that the UK has misdirected itself as to the requirements of the IHL principles of proportionality, distinction and humanity and as to its human rights obligation to protect human life and to investigate all deaths (civilians and combatants alike) arguably caused in breach of that obligation. We conclude that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is capable of application to the UK’s use of drones and that human rights accountability and the rule of law require its application. We call for urgent accountability for the UK’s drones programme

SEE FULL OPINION HERE.. http://www.publicinterestlawyers.co.uk/go_files/files/ME1IAPC380F3.pdf


Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad.  She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”.

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