Lawmakers urge transparency over UK use of drones
A British avionics specialist works on an armed MQ-9 Reaper drone at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada (file photo).
British lawmakers have called for more transparency from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in order to win public trust as far as the use of unmanned aerial drones is concerned.
Members of the Commons Defence Committee urged the MoD on Tuesday to provide a "detailed public explanation" as called by a United Nations special rapporteur to shed more light on civilian casualties caused by drone attacks.
In their report, MPs said "misunderstandings and misinformation" have sparked public frustration about the controversial weapons – or "remotely piloted air systems" as the Royal Air Force (RAF) prefers to call them.
The committee urged the MoD to accept the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson QC’s proposal, in which he has called for detailed information to be made public about such incidents.
"We recognise that this is not a simple and straightforward request as to do so could seriously jeopardise continuing operations," the recommendations suggest.
"Nonetheless, we recommend that, to the extent that it is operationally secure to do so, following an event which has resulted in confirmed civilian casualties the MoD should seek to publish details about the incident and any lessons learned from the review process," the MPs said.
The committee questioned ministers’ statements on the use of drones as "apparently inconsistent" and demanded the MoD to clarify whether the UK military has been deploying armed drones only to Afghanistan or if it had used them in attacks on Pakistan or other countries as well.
"If public confidence is to be built around the use of remotely piloted air systems, it is important that it is clear that UK aircraft have only been utilised within Afghanistan and always in accordance with UK rules of engagement," it said.
However, the committee has failed not only to mention casualty figures from UK drone strikes in Afghanistan, but also to challenge the fact.
This is while in his report to the UN Human Rights Council earlier this month, Emmerson QC urged the UK to “declassify and publish the results of the investigation into the March 2011 drone strike and of any other report relating to the infliction of civilian casualties through the use of remotely piloted aircraft in Afghanistan.”
According to Emmerson QC’s report, the death toll among civilians caused by the UK and US assassination drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia continues to rise.
Only in Afghanistan, the report said, there was a threefold increase in drone-related civilian deaths between 2012 and 2013.