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2019 | Open Society European Policy Institute Armed Drones in Europe

European states are speeding up the acquisition, proliferation and use of armed drones. This report sets out the current situation in the European Union (EU) and in five EU member states, being Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom (UK), France, and Italy. Each country’s political plans and practice are analysed (and in some cases found unlikely to meet international legal standards), as well as its specific advocacy efforts, the strategies adopted by civil society networks and the media debates that these have spurred. The report also provides a brief overview of the current debate on drones at the United Nations (UN). Of specific relevance for the Nuhanovic Foundation, are those parts that highlight the lack of transparency in the use of armed drones and the litigation efforts of drone victims.

Transparency issues

The work sets out the five states’ unwillingness to be open about their facilitating role in United States’ (US) drone strikes and about the conditions under which they provide help. For instance, the Italian authorities repeatedly denied or failed to respond to requests filed under Italy's 2016 Freedom of Information Act seeking access to information on the legal framework regulating the presence and use of US drones at and from the military base Sigonella in Sicily. Equally, these states have been reluctant to provide information about the number of civilians injured or killed by a drone strike they allegedly have facilitated, whether investigations into alleged civilian casualties was done and what the outcome was. The need to improve transparency and accountability is also being voiced at UN level, for instance in the 2017 UNIDIR study ‘Increasing Transparency, Oversight and Accountability of Armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.’ 

Litigation efforts

Under the heading ‘Complicity Charges,’ the report addresses the multiple lawsuits of drone victims brought against respectively Germany, the Netherlands and the UK  as being liable for their injuries. Although the results of these litigation efforts so far have been unsatisfactory in terms of reparations, the report highlights the most recent decision of the German Higher Administrative Court in Münster, that ruled that the German government must take action to ensure that the United States respect international law when using the German base at Ramstein. 

The publication was prepared in collaboration with the European Forum on Armed Drones -a civil society network of organisations working to promote human rights, respect for the rule of law, disarmament and conflict prevention- of which the Nuhanovic Foundation is a member.