Exactly a year ago, the UK carried out its first drone strike from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. Like the more than 450 other remote weapon launches carried out by UK drones, no details about the strike or the resulting casualties have ever been made public. As British troops pack to leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014, information leaks suggest that the UK’s armed Reaper drones will not be brought back to the UK, but rather be deployed for a counter-insurgency/counter-terrorism role in Africa and the Middle East.
Despite calls for greater transparency from many civil society groups, MPs, the defence select committee and the UN human rights council, all the Ministry of Defence will say is that “no decision has yet been taken”. The use of armed drones to carry out remote strikes with no risk to the operators raises serious legal and ethical concerns. The MoD has so far refused to release empirical data about the use of such systems on the grounds of operational security. Before any further deployment of the UK’s Reaper drones is contemplated, the MoD must release more information about the impact of its drone strikes in Afghanistan to enable proper public scrutiny and inform the wider debate about growing use of armed drones.
Director, Drone Wars UK