Dictatorships and illiberal states are not the only ones who disregard human rights. Time and again, Western democracies violate fundamental human rights. Mass surveillance of their own citizens, drone strikes that kill civilians, the torture of detainees – these are just some of the crimes that for example the United States has overseen in recent years.
After the 9/11 attacks, the US brutally pursued those they considered their "enemies." From early 2002, the CIA and the US military – with approval at the highest levels – kidnapped, unlawfully detained and tortured hundreds of people. The US torture program violated international as well as human rights law (including the UN Convention against Torture) – under the pretext of the fight against terrorism.
The US use of armed unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, as part of counter-terrorism operations began under President George W. Bush and was greatly expanded under President Barack Obama. The US uses armed drones to kill suspected terrorists overseas, including outside areas of armed conflict. In many cases the drones kill innocent civilians. The practice of using lethal force against individuals outside of any armed conflict, or – in the case of attacks conducted during an armed conflict – without properly determining their status (whether they are military targets or civilians) results in egregious violations of human rights and international (humanitarian) law.
For more than ten years, ECCHR has been taking legal action against systematic US torture and unlawful drone strikes. The focus of our work is on establishing the accountability of those bearing the greatest responsibility: the senior politicians, officials, intelligence agents and military personnel who established and implemented these policies.