US needs to lead by example on international drones agreements

August 26, 2016

Image of a drone flying

The US Government is seeking international agreements on the “‘applicability of international law’ and human rights when using armed drones,” according to documents obtained by Defense News.

The draft agreements do not appear to acknowledge the long-running, secretive US use of armed drones in countries where it is not at war, in a program which violates international law.

President Obama has consistently refused to formally acknowledge the CIA’s classified drone program, which has carried out strikes in countries including Pakistan and Yemen resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians.

The Administration is also arguing in US federal court – in Jaber v Obama – that its drone killing program and practices are beyond the reach of the US courts, even where the most heinous war crimes have been committed.

A study by international human rights organization Reprieve, which assists civilian victims of drone strikes, found that the program killed an estimated 28 unknown people for every intended target.

Commenting, Jennifer Gibson, staff attorney at Reprieve said: “If the US is truly serious about ensuring states use drones in accordance with human rights, then it needs to lead by example. It needs to end its own covert assassination program, one that has set dangerous precedents and led to the deaths of thousands, far from battlefields. The victims of those strikes deserve more than just words on paper. They deserve accountability for the US’s own use, and a US that is committed to more than just a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach.”


Notes to editors

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] / +44 (0) 207 553 8140. Reprieve U.S., based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at]