Europe’s politicians have voted by a landslide to propose a ban on US drone strikes that have killed thousands in Yemen and Pakistan, calling the killings “unlawful”.
The European Parliament voted by a majority of 534 to 49 MEPs to support a resolution demanding that EU Member States “do not perpetrate unlawful targeted killings or facilitate such killings by other states”, and calling on them to “oppose and ban practices of extra judicial targeted killings.”
Green MEP and chair of the Parliament’s sub-committee on human rights Barbara Lochbihler said: “The European Parliament has today raised serious concerns with the use of military drones and the deaths of thousands of civilians resulting from drone strikes.
“MEPs have delivered a strong rebuke to the practice of targeted aerial killings outside a declared war zone, as well as the use of armed drones in war situations outside of the international legal framework.
“The EU needs to address the legal, ethical and security challenges posed by the increasing use of drones, including the urgent need to secure complete transparency and accountability.
“The resolution also stresses that EU member states should strictly refrain from participating in or facilitating extrajudicial targeted killings, for instance by sharing relevant information with countries such as the US.”
The UK and Germany will now come under increased pressure to disclose their involvement and tacit condoning of the US drone programme, which both have resisted citing national security concerns. But both countries are believed to have aided the drone programme, a tactic President Barack Obama is known to favour, through intelligence-sharing and the provision of infrastructure at US airbases on their soil.
The resolution, sponsored by the Green group of MEPs with cross-party support, adds that “drone strikes by a State on the territory of another State without the consent of the latter constitute a violation of international law and of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of that country… thousands of civilians have reportedly been killed or seriously injured by drone strikes [but] these figures are difficult to estimate, owing to lack of transparency and obstacles to effective investigation.”
MEPs who voted in favour agreed that drone strikes are causing “considerable harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians in the countries concerned, including deep anxiety and psychological trauma, disruption of economic and social activities and reduced access to education among affected communities.”
Last week, legal charity Reprieve lodged a complaint with the International Criminal Court concerning the involvement of NATO member states in facilitating strikes in Pakistan. The complaint highlighted the case of Kareem Khan, whose civilian brother and son were killed in a 2009 strike in the Waziristan area of Pakistan. Khan has in recent days met with Parliamentarians from the UK, Germany and the Netherlands to discuss the impact of drone strikes in the area.
Khan called the vote “heartening news” and a sign that “Europe is listening to those who have been harmed”. He added: “Drone strikes are not the answer. Today, Europe has taken a first step to bringing a stop to these illegal, unaccountable killings; I hope that national governments will follow suit, so that one day I may finally get justice.”
Reprieve Legal Director Kat Craig said: “Today’s vote represents a triumph of conscience by MEPs, who have issued a clear call to national European governments to come clean on their complicity with the CIA’s illegal drones programme, and bring it to an immediate halt.
“This should be a wake-up call to countries like the UK and Germany; they need to clean up their act not only by ensuring that they stop cooperating with extrajudicial killings, but also by pressuring the US for greater transparency and accountability.”
By: Jessica Elgot