How Necessary Are Drones?

POST WRITTEN BY: Faiza Jamil ’15

In the words of Albert Einstein,

it has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.

The use of technology is embedded in nearly every person’s life. Over the past few decades, we have seen a significant improvement in the technological field from hand held electronic devices to unmanned aerial vehicles (drones). A drone can be used for various reasons such as rescue, surveillance and/or killing of specific targets.

Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” In addition, Article 2 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms guarantees the right to life. It legally protects every human being’s life with the exception of a court ordered execution. This article also outlines the circumstances when deadly force may be used. However, it explicitly states that no more than the absolutely necessary amount of force can be used. As such, who decides whether drone attacks are the absolutely necessary amount of force needed?

As Prof. McDonnell writes in his article, titled What You Reap? Using Predator and Reaper Drones to Carry Out Assassinations or Targeted Killings of Suspected Islamic Terrorists, one might argue that the law of war controls in armed conflict, which permits targeting combatants as long as the attack does not cause disproportionate civilian losses. Under this standard, the law of war limits attacks, which can be expected to cause a loss of civilian lives that are excessive to the anticipated military advantage.  Is there any military advantage that would be worth the loss of a civilian’s life?

In Al-Skeini And Others v. United Kingdom ECHR 55721/07, the Court held that under Article 2 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, authorities must take the reasonable steps available to them. Is it reasonable then for authorities to use drone attacks where civilians are residing? Would it be reasonable for authorities to use drone attacks in areas where they are unsure with regards to the target’s location? How certain should authorities be about their targets’ location, before they send a drone to attack? What happens if the target is amongst innocent civilians? Is the destruction of the target worth more than the life of an innocent civilian and his/her family? Absolutely not. The purpose of ridding the world of terrorists is to create a safe environment and to protect civilians. Using drones to take out targets is basically counterproductive.

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