You are here: UK fails to engage with Human Rights Council on drones
26 September 2014
In Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution 25/22, adopted earlier this year, states were asked to share their views on a number of legal ambiguities identified by Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson relating to the use of armed drones. The UK has failed to respond to this request, which was designed to build international consensus over the use of these weapons.
On Monday 22 September, during an interactive HRC panel discussion, experts including Special Rapporteurs Ben Emmerson and Christof Heyns agreed on the need for greater transparency and accountability, and for effective implementation of existing international laws, with regard to the use of armed drones. Rather than engaging on the substance on the discussion, the UK, as it has done in the past, expressed the view that the HRC is not the appropriate forum for these discussions. In a report released in June, UNA-UK called on the UK to engage constructively with the HRC on this issue.
Despite having previously voted against holding the panel discussion, in its statement, the UK accepted the decision to hold the event but stated that it did not believe the HRC should take up particular weapons “on a thematic basis”. The rationale for the UK's (and others, including the US's) refusal to engage on this issue at the HRC was challenged by both Special Rapporteurs. Ben Emmerson, rapporteur on counter terrorism and human rights, expressed that, in armed conflict, the duty to investigate is “classic human rights law territory”.
Ahead of the panel discussion, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, UNA-UK Chairman, Lord Hannay, Chair of the UN APPG, Tom Watson MP, Chair of the Drones APPG, and a number of other prominent UK figures, wrote to members of the expert panel to express the view that, in the absence of adequate state responses, definitive recommendations from a Special Procedures mandate-holder are urgently needed to address the questions posed by Ben Emmerson in resolution 25/22. The authors of the letter agreed that the issue is "all the more pertinent and timely as the frontiers of transnational counter-terrorism operations expand: increased use of armed drones underscores the need for greater consensus between states on how to apply the international laws that regulate lethal force."
The full text of the letter, which was picked up by the Guardian newspaper, is available below.
UNA-UK has consistently called on the UK to engage fully with UN initiatives to build international consensus on armed drone use and to respond fully to UN calls for public explanations regarding drone strikes that have led to civilian casualties.