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2016 | Q. Eijkman, M. Bakker; Access to an Effective Remedy and Reparations for Civilian Victims of Armed Drone Strikes in The Future of Drone Use, Opportunities and Threats from Ethical and Legal Perspectives

by B. Custers (ed)

T.M.C. Asser Press, ISBN 978-94-6265-131-9

Chapter 15 of the book addresses the issue of “Access to an Effective Remedy and Reparations for Civilian Victims of Armed Drone Strikes”.

Civilian victims of drone bombings encounter serious hurdles when trying to effectuate their right to a remedy. Relying on national security reasons, states tend to be secret about the legal basis for their targeting activities, about who’s on their kill list and what the outcome is of their investigations in case of reported civilian casualties. This lack of information leads to an accountability-vacuum and hinders victims in their efforts to seek an effective remedy, including compensation for medical costs, the loss of income or property.

Although international humanitarian law does not require compensating civilian victims per se, human rights low does grant the right to an effective remedy. Developments in this latter area of law show a growing international consensus that -in addition to more transparency and accountability- an effective remedy and reparations for victims of drone bombings should become a key priority. Justice should be done by making compensation payments, but also, for example, by supporting independent and impartial investigations and/or issuing a public apology.

In practice, drone victims and their families occasionally have been compensated or offered apologies through local governments. Also the US military appears to have been engaged in giving some form of reparations to victims in Afghanistan. However, such condolence—or ex gratia—payments are not required by law and cannot be interpreted as an admission of unlawful behaviour.

The authors conclude that it is up to the international community to ensure the right to an effective remedy for civilian victims of drone strikes.