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.
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.
In the summer of 2012, two members of the bin Ali Jaber family were killed and many survivors traumatized in a drone attack in the Yemeni village of Khashamir. The US Ramstein Air Base in Germany played an important role in the attack. The German government’s response has been to deny any knowledge of or responsibility for the death of these and other civilians from US drone attacks.
Sigonella Air Base in Sicily, Italy, is considered of strategic importance for US drone operations in North Africa. ECCHR has filed requests to access information regarding US drones located at Sigonella according to the Italian Freedom of Information Act and filed a criminal complaint against the air base commander.
ECCHR supported the case of the German victim of a drone strike in Pakistan, Bünyamin E. According to ECCHR’s examinations, the case raises a number of serious doubts as to the application and interpretation of the law and shows insufficient investigations.