Drone Warfare UK – Update……

12 Dec

‘I have already voiced my opinions on ‘drone warfare’ and its implications for human rights and international law’

Until the announcement of 13th Squadron, based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, very few people were even aware that the UK had adopted ‘Drones’, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) to give them their proper name, as part of the arsenal of weaponry.  It transpires that we adopted an UAV program as early as 2006.  The UK currently has 5 operational UAVs but this number is set to double in the near future……

Armed RAF Reaper

Armed RAF Reaper

James Arbuthnot, the Conservative chairman of the Defence Select Committee, said that the issue of drones was gaining in importance as a larger proportion of the Royal Air Force became unmanned.  “An unmanned aerial vehicle is the same as any other platform that fires weapons,” he said.  “The issues that are concerning people are the distance between the person who is controlling the platform and the death that results from it.”  This is somewhat of an understatement of public concerns.  It not primarily the distance between the operator and the UAV which causes concern.  It is the way in which the targets are chosen, the implications for potential human rights abuses and the intentions of the UK Government once the Afghanistan withdrawal is completed in 2014……

“Lord Hutton, a former Labour defence secretary, said that the weapon was the “face of modern warfare” and welcomed greater debate on its use.  “This is the future of war fighting and deterrence.  We need this technology and we need to make sure the public understands that.  Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former Tory defence and foreign secretary, agreed.  “This is part of modern military capability, which will undoubtedly become much more substantial.  However, almost all of the statements made by Lord Hutton raise the issue of the public’s knowledge of how these UAVs will be deployed in the future.  There has been no ‘debate’ of which I am aware and the public do not understand how these platforms are to be deployed or used and under what circumstances.  For example; will the UAVs be used in UK airspace to prevent acts of terrorism and on whose authority would this be agreed?

“One of the big problems is the shortage of information – we simply do not know what is true and can, as a result, not take an informed decision,” Professor Heyns said.  “Transparency is called for.”   He plans to present a report on drones to the UN next year.  ”I also take up the issue with the relevant governments in a direct on-and-off-the-record way,” he said……

MQ9 Reaper

MQ9 Reaper

According to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), between 2,593-3,378 people have been killed in the 350 US drone strikes in Pakistan [a sovereign state with which the USA is not at war], of whom between 475-885 were civilians and 176 were children……

An MoD spokesman told the Guardian Newspaper:  “The new squadron will have three control terminals at RAF Waddington, and the five aircraft will be based in Afghanistan…  We will continue to operate the other Reapers from Creech, though in time, we will wind down operations there and bring people back to the UK.”

The UK’s spending already exceeds £2 billion in the age of austerity and in 2013 the UK is likely to begin committing funds to the Scavenger programme to develop a new armed medium altitude, long endurance (MALE) drone.  The UK MoD estimates the Scavenger programme will cost £2bn over its lifetime……

‘The whole UAV program raises important issues for International Law, the Geneva Conventions and could find the UK Government in the courts charged with war crimes.  As with the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the use of UAVs poses an increased threat from terrorism to the UK.  The public are largely unaware of the intentions of the UK Government in the use and deployment of UAVs but the author feels the issues in the Middle East between Israel and Iran may come into play in the not to distant future.’

For more information visit: Drones War UK

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