Europe's role in the US drone warfare

The almost global capacity to conduct airstrikes anytime, anywhere: that is one of the most distinctive features of armed drones - and therefore a new dimension of warfare. Since many years the US employs drone strikes in the thousands. Again and again, innocent people are killed in the attacks – in many different countries.
US drone warfare often violates international law, such as strict rules on  the use of force and self-defense (ius ad bellum), principles and customs of war (ius in bello), basic human rights (namely the right to life and physical integrity), by attacking individuals without sufficiently determining their status. This results in blatant violations of human rights and international law.

ECCHR initiates and supports litigation on drone attacks

Litigation aims at restricting legal interpretations of the applicable laws and seeks to enforce fundamental (human) rights. Nevertheless, the US receives support from a number of European Governments, including Germany and Italy, through sharing intelligence and allowing the US to operate military bases on European soil.

The Bin Ali Jaber Family from Yemen vs Germany: The Ramstein case

In October 2014, ECCHR together with the partner organization Reprieve, initiated a legal complaint for the Bin Ali Jaber family from Yemen that has lived in constant fear ever since a drone strike in summer 2012 killed two of their family members. The litigation includes a constitutional challenge of the use of US-airbase Ramstein in Germany for drone strikes in Yemen.

Judicial complaint to obtain documents regarding Italy’s involvement in US drone program

The Naval-Air base of Sigonella (Sicily, Italy) is considered of strategic importance for US drone operations in North Africa. Based on an agreement between Rome and Washington, the US can operate armed drones from Sigonella, upon formal authorization by the Italian Commander. This makes Italy directly complicit in drone attacks.


ECCHR has filed requests to access information regarding US drones located at Sigonella according to the Italian “Freedom Of Information Act” (FOIA), a new law passed in December 2016. ECCHR received so far only insufficient information from the Italian authorities. In July 2017 ECCHR thus filed a judicial complaint to the administrative court in Rome to obtain access to the documents.

Q&A: Italy's role in the US drone warfare

Drones_Italy_QA_eng.pdf (375.3 KiB)


Information and documents in Italian

Ricorso giudiziario per ottenere documenti relativi al coinvolgimento dell'Italia nel programma droni USA

La base militare di Sigonella (Sicilia) è considerata, ad oggi, di importanza strategica per le operazioni condotte a mezzo droni dagli Stati Uniti in Nord Africa e in Medio Oriente. Grazie a un accordo tra Roma e Washington, gli Stati Uniti possono ora utilizzare droni armati in partenza da Sigonella, su formale autorizzazione del Comandante italiano. Tale circostanza implica un coinvolgimento diretto dell’Italia negli attacchi condotti a mezzo droni.
Recentemente ECCHR ha presentato diverse istanze di accesso a informazioni e dati concernenti i droni statunitensi stanziati a Sigonella, in forza della normativa, approvata dalle Camere nel 2013 ed emendata nel 2016, sulla trasparenza della pubblica amministrazione. Ad oggi, tuttavia, ECCHR ha ricevuto solo dinieghi di accesso o silenzi dalle autorità richieste. A luglio 2017, pertanto, ha presentato un ricorso al giudice amministrativo (TAR Lazio) per ottenere accesso agli atti, e il processo è attualmente in corso.

Video della conferenza ECCHR "Attacchi con droni a giudizio"

Domande er risposte: Il ruolo dell' Italia nella guerra con i droni degli USA

Droni_Italia_QA_ita.pdf (393.0 KiB)

ECCHR's Prof. Chantal Meloni on the (il)legitimacy of drone attacks and drone litigation (Ital.)

Sulla (il)legittimità degli omicidi mirati mediante i droni e i possibili ricorsi alle corti.pdf (793.0 KiB)

Report of Archivio Disarmo: Armed Drones - Proliferation or Control (Italian, 145 pages)

Rapporto_Droni militari_proliferazione o controllo.pdf (6.9 MiB)

Chantal Meloni: Fare la guerra con omicidi mirati

Fare la guerra con omicidi mirati.pdf (92.2 KiB)

Beyond drone litigation: ECCHR's expert opinions, publications and videos

Apart from litigation, the ECCHR serves as focal point for network meetings on drones, connects investigations and litigation with art exhibition and theatre plays. ECCHR staff comment on expert panels and in public debates on the topic from a legal and human rights perspective. On the death of German citizen Bünyamin E. in Pakistan, the ECCHR prepared a legal expert opinion criticizing the closure of criminal investigations into the strike by the German Federal Public Prosecutor.


  • drone war
  • drones
  • Germany
  • Pakistan
  • Ramstein
  • USA
  • Yemen

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