6 November 2013
Proposal for a Recommendation to the Council on the use of Armed Drones
Barbara Lochbihler, Tarja Cronberg, Jean Lambert, Ulrike Lunacek on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group

European Parliament


The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the study released on 28 May 2010 by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston,

–   having regard to the report released on 13 September 2013 by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns,

–   having regard to the report released on 18 September 2013 by the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Ben Emmerson,

–   having regard to the statement of 13 August 2013 by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki‑moon, on the use of armed drones,

–   having regard to the hearing of 25 April 2013 on the human rights implications of the use of drones, organised by its Subcommittee on Human Rights jointly with its Subcommittee on Security and Defence,

–   having regard to its study entitled ‘The Human Rights Implications of the Usage of Drones and Unmanned Robots in Warfare’,

–   having regard to the report of May 2013 by the International Crisis Group (Asia Report 247) of May 2013, and to those of October 2013 by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch,

–   having regard to Rule 121(1) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas reliance on the use of remotely piloted aircraft (hereinafter ‘drones’) in lethal extraterritorial operations has steeply increased over the past decade; whereas countries where drone strikes have been documented include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Somalia and Palestine (Gaza); whereas the USA, the UK, Israel and Turkey are reported to have carried out drone strikes; whereas the number of states with the capacity to use drones is likely to increase significantly in the near future;

B.  whereas support installations at US bases in Germany were recently reported to have been instrumental for certain targeted killing operations in which up to 29 people were killed;

C. whereas thousands of civilians have reportedly been killed or seriously injured by drone strikes; whereas these figures are difficult to estimate, owing to a lack of transparency and obstacles to effective investigation;

D. whereas drone strike policies have been documented as causing considerable and under‑accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians in the countries concerned; whereas the negative consequences of drone strikes include deep anxiety and psychological trauma, disruption of economic and social activities, and reduced access to education among affected communities;

E.  whereas extended use of targeted killings through drones by a state on the territory of another state as part of the notion of ‘pre-emptive self-defence’ has created major controversies; whereas the UN special rapporteurs have denounced an accountability and transparency vacuum, and whereas, notably, Philip Alston has deplored ‘the displacement of clear legal standards with a vaguely defined licence to kill’;

F.  whereas international human rights law prohibits arbitrary killing, including in a situation of armed conflict; whereas international humanitarian law does not permit the targeting of persons directly participating in hostilities who are located in non-belligerent states, as pointed out by Special Rapporteur Emmerson, who adds in his report that otherwise ‘the whole world is potentially a battlefield’;

G. whereas drone strikes by a state on the territory of another state without the latter’s consent constitute a violation of international law and of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of that country, and potentially an act of aggression, according to the International Court of Justice;

H. whereas states are under an obligation to conduct a prompt, independent and impartial fact-finding inquiry and to provide a detailed public explanation and access to redress, including adequate compensation, where civilians have been killed by drone strikes in armed conflict;

1.  Addresses the following recommendations to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Member States and the Council:

(a) to strictly comply with their obligations under international law, in particular human rights law and international humanitarian law, and to declare the use of drones for targeted killings outside the context of armed conflict an illegal act of extrajudicial execution;

(b) to confirm publicly the position that there is no international armed conflict between the USA and al-Qaeda and associated entities, and to denounce the ongoing practice of targeted killings by the USA and other countries as setting a dangerous precedent;

(c) to commit to ensuring that, in the event of a reasonable basis to believe that an unlawful targeted killing has originated within their jurisdiction, measures are taken in accordance with their domestic, EU and international legal obligations to investigate and to bring those responsible to justice;

(d) to ensure that the Member States, in conformity with their legal obligations, do not help to facilitate, or share, intelligence information that may be used by other states to engage in unlawful targeted killings or to perpetrate such killings;

(e) to engage in committing all states in possession of armed drone technology to publicly disclose the legal basis for the use of drones, operational responsibility, and information about the victims of drone strikes, in particular civilians; to ensure that these states carry out prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into all cases where there are reasonable grounds to believe that drone strikes resulted in unlawful killings; to make sure that these criteria include impartial investigations of alleged breaches of international and national law, assistance for civilian victims and compensation for the families of civilian victims; to allow for judicial review of drone strikes and to ensure that victims of unlawful drone strikes have effective access to remedies;

(f)  to prohibit research into, and the development, procurement and export of, armed, fully automatic and autonomous drones that are apt to kill without human involvement;

(g)  to include unarmed and armed drones in relevant European and international arms control regimes such as EU Common Position 2008/944/CFSP, the EU Dual Use Export Regime (Regulation 428/2009) and the global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), and to prevent an international arms race with regard to this technology;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this recommendation to the European External Action Service, the Council and, for information, the Commission.

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