UK votes against greater transparency around drones at UN

March 28, 2014

Image of drones

The UK today voted against a UN resolution seeking to “ensure transparency” around drone strikes, just days after an influential Parliamentary committee called for “greater transparency” around the UK’s role in the US’ covert drone programme.

The resolution, which was voted on at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) today, also “express[ed] deep concern” at civilian casualties resulting from drone strikes.

The UK’s no vote comes just days after the House of Commons’ Defence Committee called for “greater transparency” from the British Government over its reported involvement in the US programme of secret drone strikes that have killed thousands of civilians in Pakistan and Yemen.

The UNHRC resolution, which passed despite opposition from the US, UK and other European states, also raised concerns over “the interruption of education, the undermining of religious and cultural practices and the reluctance to assist the victims of drone strikes for fear of being caught in secondary strikes.” It called upon states using drones – currently the US, UK and Israel – to ensure transparency in their use of drones and “to conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations whenever there are indications of a violation of international law.”

Ireland was the only European member state to vote in favour of the resolution – it was opposed by France, while Germany – whose intelligence sharing links with the US are reportedly supporting the covert drone programme – abstained. Last month members of the European Parliament voted in an overwhelming landslide of 534 to 49 to ban covert drone strikes.

Kat Craig, Legal Director of Reprieve, said: “The European Parliament has recently made it crystal clear that it wants to see increased transparency around drone strikes. The British Defence Committee released a report this week calling for the same. Yet the UK and other European governments seem happy to ignore the overwhelming call for more clarity and openess of a program that has taken the lives of thousands of people. This ‘no’ vote from the UK shows that the Government is happy to support US drone strikes without any transparency or accountability. The British people deserve to know what is being done in their name to civilian communities in Yemen and Pakistan.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: clemency.wells@reprieve.org.uk or donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 207 553 8161 / 8166 2. The full text of the resolution can be found here.   Sign up to join our press mailing list.