With VAWA passed and on the books, and our wait continuing with the Reggie Clemons case, our chapter is beginning to focus on other issues. This includes the Arms Trade Treaty, torture, indefinite detention, and armed drones. Over the next few days, we will cover Amnesty International’s stance on these issues and its recommended actions. Today, we will cover drones and lethal force and what we have planned to address the issue.
The Issue with Drones and Lethal Force
Although there may be lawful aspects to the current administration’s use of armed drones, such as their use int he context of armed conflicts, the policy appears to allow extrajudicial executions that would be outside of armed conflict and any criminal proceedings. The latter would be a violation of human rights law, but one we aren’t sure about since details of this program remain secret.
Amnesty International is concerned about the use of armed drones and lethal force for two main reasons. First, their legality is somewhat based on the concept of the global war on terror, which treats the entire world as a battleground and everyone who could be a victim of a drone strike as an enemy combatant. Second, their use is based on the idea of “guilty until proven innocent”, and that this is an act of self-defense so we are justified in their use despite a lack of evidence of hostilities or the imminence of hostilities. These stances weaken the United States’ position on human rights, and threatens the fundamental human right to life.
What is our chapter doing about this? Well, we are partnering with the Peace Economy Project and Instead of War to do two days of action in April. The first day of action, April 12 (also the National Day of Action on armed drones), will be a lobbying effort at Sen. Claire McCaskill’s office. Although there isn’t currently legislation regarding the use of drones, we’d like to urge McCaskill to hold a public hearing on the administration’s use of armed drones and lethal force, and to ensure that any legislation that does come up meets the US government’s obligations under international human rights law and doesn’t discriminate based on citizenship. Representatives from those three organization, plus others who are interested in joining our cause, will meet with the Senator or an aide to discuss the issue.
Our second day of action, which will take place at 1 p.m. on April 13 (place to be determined), will involve a demonstration to build awareness about the use of armed drones and lethal force, and what the government ought to do about this. Armed drones are currently a controversial topic primarily because of the possible impact they could have on US citizens. However, what about the unintended victims of these strikes that aren’t US citizens? What about their right to life? What about the fact that this policy could violate international law? These are questions that aren’t being asked that do need to be asked. We will do that less than a month from now. We want our administration to consider their human rights obligations when crafting and executing US policies and practices.
Stay tuned for further information on these events! We will certainly let you know about them when it gets closer to April 12 and 13. In the meantime, if interested in joining us or helping us on this issue in any way, please contact us at amnestystl (at) gmail (dot) com.