Drohnen - Italien - Sigonella

Stützpunkt Sizilien: Informations-Klage zu Italiens Beteiligung am US-Drohnenprogramm

Drohnen - Italien - Sigonella

Stützpunkt Sizilien: Informations-Klage zu Italiens Beteiligung am US-Drohnenprogramm

Der Militärstützpunkt Sigonella auf Sizilien (Italien) ist für US-Drohnenangriffe in Nordafrika von strategischer Bedeutung. Auf Basis eines – bisher unveröffentlichten – Abkommens zwischen Rom und Washington können die USA nach formaler Autorisierung durch den italienischen Kommandeur offenbar bewaffnete Drohnen von Sigonella aus einsetzen. Damit würde sich Italien bei den Drohnenangriffen direkt mitschuldig machen.

Das ECCHR hat gemäß des italienischen Informationsfreiheitsgesetzes (Freedom of Information Act) 2017 Anträge auf Zugang zu Informationen über US-Drohnen, die sich in Sigonella befinden, gestellt.

Fall

Im Juli 2017 reichte das ECCHR eine Klage beim Verwaltungsgericht in Rom (Tribunale Amministrativo Regionale, TAR) ein, um Zugang zu den Dokumenten über Sigonella zu erhalten. Das TAR versuchte wiederholt, den Fall abzuweisen, das ECCHR ging jedoch immer wieder in Berufung. Im Februar 2021 entschied dann das Oberste Verwaltungsgericht (Consiglio di Stato) endgültig, dass das TAR den Fall behandeln muss, die nächste Anhörung ist nun für den 2. Juli 2021 angesetzt.

Kontext

Europäische Länder spielen seit Langem eine Schlüsselrolle im US-Drohnenprogramm – und leisten damit möglicherweise Beihilfe zu den begangenen Völkerrechtsverstößen. Insbesondere Italien unterstützte die USA, indem es die Militärbasis Sigonella immer öfter für US-Drohnenangriffe zur Verfügung stellte. Obwohl die bewaffneten Drohnen anfangs nur zeitweise dort autorisiert waren, so gibt es Beweise, dass US-Drohnen seit 2016 durchgängig auf Sizilien stationiert sind.

Das ECCHR und seine Partner Reprieve und Rete Italiana Pace e Disarmo warnten die italienische Regierung zusätzlich vor ihrer möglichen Verantwortung für die Drohnenangriffe von Sigonella und forderten mehr Transparenz. Dies führte zwar zu einer parlamentarischen Untersuchung, allerdings folgten bisher weder eine offizielle Antwort noch konkrete Taten.

Grundlagen

Dieses Q&A informiert über die rechtlichen Grundlagen der Klage in Italien.

The Sigonella Air Base in Sicily is of strategic importance for US drone operations, in particular in Libya and other North African countries. Based on a – publicly undisclosed – agreement between Rome and Washington, it is understood that the US can operate armed drones from Sigonella subject to formal authorization by the Italian Commander. This could make Italy directly involved in drone attacks. 

ECCHR is seeking to obtain more information about the actual use of armed drones located in Sigonella and in particular the role played by Italy in US drone operations overseas.

Under Article 5 of Legislative Decree No. 33/2013, as amended in 2016, everyone is entitled to request access to any documents held by the public administration; a denial is possible but limited to exceptional cases set out in Article 5-bis. It is a general principle of administrative law that a comprehensive justification must be provided for any such denials.

In April 2017, ECCHR filed three requests to the Naval Air Commander of Sigonella, the Ministry of Defense and the Presidency of the Council of Ministries and received either no response or a denial of access. ECCHR had requested access to relevant information on Sigonella, including the costs of the airbase, the number of remotely piloted aircraft located at Sigonella, the number of personnel employed there, and the number and scope of authorizations given by the Italian Commander to the US Commander for extraterritorial operations carried out by armed drones.

A public administration body must respond to a request for information within 30 days; if it fails to do so, or denies access, according to Article 5 Paragraph 7 of Legislative Decree 33/2013 the applicant can file a request to a higher authority (“Responsabile della prevenzione della corruzione e della trasparenza”) within the administration to have the decision reviewed within a maximum of 20 days. This authority denied ECCHR’s requests for review in this case. ECCHR then filed a complaint to the administrative tribunal (TAR) and ultimately appealed to the Italian Supreme Administrative Court.

Measures taken by administrative authorities can generally be challenged at the regional administrative tribunal (Tribunale Amministrativo Regionale, TAR) in Rome. In July 2017, ECCHR filed a judicial complaint to the TAR regarding the denial of access, on the basis that insufficient reasons were given for the decision. In particular, Italian authorities failed to properly justify why the publication of the requested documents would endanger Italy’s defense or security interests or international relations and failed to properly consider the right to be informed about issues that are extremely relevant for public interest.

In December 2017, TAR dismissed ECCHR’s complaint on procedural grounds, stating that the complaint was inadmissible due to a failure to notify the US government as a possible party in the case. ECCHR appealed this decision before the Supreme Administrative Court, which referred the case back to the regional court in October 2019.

ECCHR then resumed the case at TAR, complying with the Supreme Administrative Court’s procedural request, but TAR dismissed the request again on procedural grounds, claiming the notification was not presented in time. ECCHR successfully appealed the decision once again: in February 2021, the Supreme Administrative Court held that ECCHR had carried out the necessary steps in due time, and nullified TAR’s judgment for the second time.

ECCHR has since resumed the case at TAR.