6 March 2014
The most important substantive element in the Resolution is a provision on transparency and investigations, which
The most important procedural element is a decision by the Council “to organize an interactive panel discussion of experts at its twenty-seventh session” on the issue of armed drones (i.e. it is slated for September 2014).
On the eve before the vote, Human Rights Watch published an open-letter outlining reasons for states to vote in in favor of the text, and the United States government issued a statement outlining its reasons for opposing the resolution and urging other states to do the same.
Earlier this month, the U.S. had decided to sit out of the talks at the UNHRC concerning the draft resolution. In response to a reporter’s question, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki stated that the administration did not “see the Human Rights Council as the right forum for … discussion narrowly focused on a single weapons delivery system. That has not been a traditional focus area for the HRC, in part for reasons of expertise. We do not see how refinements to the text can address this core concern.” (To which the reporter asking the question responded, “but that’s a really kind of bizarre answer.”) The real reason may be more about genuine concerns that the resolution and its associated expert panel will become politicized: As leading human rights investigator Letta Tayler wrote recently,
Here is the breakdown of votes by state:
favor (27): Algeria, Argentina, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, China, Congo,
Costa Rica, Cuba, Gabon, Indonesia, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait,
Maldives, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Russian Federation,
Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Venezuela and Vietnam.
As close observers of the Council know, a key dynamic in these votes — especially the first time a resolution passes — involves states in the Abstention category. Those are often delegations that might have moved into one of the other camps–and may be moved to do so in future iterations of the resolution. (A good case study of such voting patterns over time is the anti-death penalty resolution.) Notably, during the period of explanations of votes, Germany, speaking on behalf of itself and the Czech Republic, suggested an ambivalence and not a very strong reason for abstaining rather than favoring the resolution. The reason they gave: redundancy in the work of the Council. According to the summary record, Germany stated: “They welcomed the transparent and open negotiation process on the draft resolution and believed that an appropriate framework was already in place. They had therefore argued in favour of avoiding any duplication of work.”
What does the future hold for states that
abstained today? If the expert panel process is indeed politicized, the United
States may be able to pull more states into its camp in the future. And if the
process avoids such pitfalls, the US will likely find itself in a shrinking