US covert drone programme ‘violates children’s rights under international law,’ says new report

March 24, 2013

Image of drones

A new report focusing on the impact on children of America’s covert drone programme finds that it violates a range of their rights as established under international law.

Documented instances of the killing of children, strikes on schools, and attacks on rescuers mean that the programme – which is intended to target ‘militants’ as part of the ‘War on Terror’ – violates three of the UN Security Council’s Six Grave Violations Against Children in Armed Conflict, the report finds.

The drone programme – which uses robotic aircraft armed with Hellfire missiles outside of declared warzones in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen – also “violates a range of rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,” including the rights to life, health and education.

The report emphasises the wider impact on children’s health and educational opportunities when the missiles hit key infrastructure such as schools or hospitals, noting that “Beyond the direct injuring and maiming of children, arguably the most egregious violation of children’s right to health through the U.S.’ drone program is the targeting and striking of health facilities”.

It also stresses the risk of psychological damage, finding that “the constant, terrorizing presence of drones overhead traumatizes whole populations of children. Testimonies from community members as disparate as Pakistan and Yemen have led researchers to one conclusion: the U.S. drone program is having a profound and possibly irreversible psychological effect on children.”

The three Grave Violations Against Children in Armed Conflict identified by the report – entitled ‘Drones: No Safe Place for Children,’ and produced by human rights charity Reprieve – are:

    Killing and maiming of children Attacks on schools Denial of humanitarian access (through ‘double-tap’ strikes on rescuers)

The Rights of the Child violated by the programme include:

    Right to survival and development Right to an adequate standard of living Right to Health Right to Education

Commenting, the report’s author, Katie Taylor said: “Children make up nearly half of the population of the communities targeted by drones. These children did not choose to engage with the ‘war on terror’; rather, the US brought that war to them. This continues to have a profound effect on every aspect of children’s day-to-day lives. The US must fulfil its obligations under international law as it pertains to the protection of children and ensure that the impact on communities is not irreversible.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 7791 755 415 /

2. The report can be found on Reprieve’s website