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Drones Should Be Banned by International Law

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In this essay I will argue that the operation of drones should be ban in international law. Drones in their general definition are unmanned aerial vehicles operated by a pilot who may be thousands of miles away from where the drone is flying. Originally, drones were designed as reconnaissance aircraft or in other words an exploratory military survey of enemy territory. However, as years go by, drones became armed and thousands of civilian people. The United States has two types of combat drones in its arsenal or armaments: the MQ1 or Predator and the MQ9 or the Reaper. The Predators began as surveillance drones and adapted to carry two Hellfire missiles. The Reaper is specially designed as a launch vehicle that can carry up to 14 Hellfire missiles and 500 pounds bombs. The United States having drone programs: one conducted by the US Air Force and the other by the Central Intelligence Agency or the CIA. The CIA is the first line of defense for the United States. The Predator missiles fired during the war in Afghanistan. Many US drones piloted by the Air Force, controversially, a large number flown by the CIA with regularly launches attacks, particularly in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. One of these strikes took place in Yemen in 2002, in which the laser-guided missile launched from a drone, destroying a car and causing the death of six people, including a suspected al-Qaeda lieutenant. Controversially, it has been argued that there was no armed conflict in Yemen at the time.

The right to resort to an armed conflict must be found in the law governing the resort to military force, the jus ad bellum. The way they are used must be based on international humanitarian law and human rights. Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, generally prohibits the use of force, however, there are exceptions, including the resort of self-defense. Article 51 states, that nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of collective or individual self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. The ICJ has made clear that self-defense is a term of art in international law. The reference in article 51 to self-defense refers to the right of a victim-state to use significant offensive force in the territory of a state legally responsible for a significant armed attack. State Department Legal Advisor Koh gave a speech at the American Society of international Laws Annual meeting in March 2010. He stated that the US is responding to threatened attacks by individuals in these organizations, using force to preempt attacks under a theory of self-defense. The Self-Defense Act does not allow states to launch attacks before they have evidence that an armed attack took place, there is not enough evidence of a conspiracy. Furthermore, Legal Advisor said that the US is currently in the worldwide, armed conflict, therefore, it must be in the U.S. and Germany as much as Yemen and Pakistan. The Legal Advisor has said that decisions to use force would be based on the conditions and capacities of governments. International law, however, has no rule concerning the resort to military force in relation to the capacity of a government. There is no right to resort to armed force against weak states versus strong ones.

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Furthermore, the ICJ has also said in several cases that two general principles of international law impose important conditions on the right to exercise force in self-defense. Those principles are distinction and proportionality, or the jus in bello, that governs the conduct of armed force, and aspects of human rights law that apply at all times regardless of whether situations are one’s armed conflict or not. In the principle of distinction, the main instrument for that protection is Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), June 8, 1977. The civilian population and individual civilians, according to this agreement, shall enjoy general protection against dangers arising from military operations. The US administration has described its drone program in terms of its unprecedented ability to “distinguish effectively between an al-Qaeda terrorist and innocent civilians”, and touts its missile-armed drones as capable of conducting strikes with ‘astonishing’ and ‘surgical’ precision. They even added that “there have been no or single-digit civilian casualties”. However, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization, from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562-3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children and injured an additional 1,228-1,362 individuals. Also, proportionality for jus in bello requires tempering the extent and violence of warfare to minimize destruction and casualties (casualty means a person killed or injured in a war or accident). Mary Ellen O’Connell has summarized the idea by saying that most strikes are associated with one person’s name. Yet, every strike kills several persons. It is difficult to make the argument that killing 30, 12, or even six persons is proportional to the killing of one person. It is failing under the principle of proportionality.

Also, US drone strikes are subject to human rights law. Using drones against civilians constitute a war crime (war crimes is an action carried out during the conduct of a war that violates accepted international rules of war). According to Amnesty International, the US has killed civilians in unlawful drone attacks on northwest Pakistan, alleging that the Obama administration may be guilty of war crimes. Amnesty claims that many of those killed by the drone and accounted for by the US military as terrorists were in fact civilians. Additionally, US drone strikes are arbitrarily deprivation life that is stated in our covenant. Article 6 from International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) also known as ICCPR, is very specific about the right to life when it stated that “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life”. According to Amnesty International, CIA drone campaign attacks against suspected terrorists in Pakistan violated the prohibition of the arbitrary deprivation of life and may constitute extrajudicial executions. The right to receive a fair trial is recognized in international humanitarian law. Article 75 (4) of the First Protocol to the Geneva Conventions stipulates that “No sentence may be passed and no penalty may be executed on a person found guilty of a penal offense related to the armed conflict except under a conviction pronounced by an impartial and regularly constituted court respecting the generally recognized principles of regular judicial procedure”. Killing by drone attacks is a willful killing which is, according to the terms used by the Fourth Geneva Convention under article 147, a grave breach of international humanitarian law. Furthermore, we must also consider the effects of the strikes on the civilian people. According to a report published by the Associated Press, “Afghans are increasingly fleeing their homes in fear” to escape relentless. Deportation or forcible transfer of population is considered a crime against humanity as stated in article 7 of the statute of the International Criminal Court. Additionally, David Rohde, who was held captive by the Taliban for eight months, stated: “The Taliban were able to garner recruits in their aftermath by exaggerating the number of civilian casualties”. Therefore, drone strikes create more terrorists. A Pakistani man stated: “When children hear the drones, they get really scared, and they can hear them all the time so they’re always fearful that the drone is going to attack them. Because of the noise, we’re psychologically disturbed: women, men, and children. Twenty-four hours, a person is in stress and there is a pain in his head”. Thus, it affects the civilian psychologically.

Finally, 28 countries banned drones for reasons that they can be used to harm other people and because of privacy threats. Also, drones have been the go-to method of smuggling drugs across the US-Mexico border due to the speed and altitude they can fly at. Thus, it has been used for illegal activities. Therefore, we conclude that drones should be ban in international law.

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Drones Should Be Banned by International Law. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 25, 2023, from
“Drones Should Be Banned by International Law.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
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