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 March 2019, the Higher Administrative Court in Münster, Germany, ruled that the German government must take action to ensure that the US respects international law in its use of Ramstein airbase. In its judgment the court found in favor of the claimants from Yemen on several key aspects.
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.
ECCHR advises in 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.