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“TERRORISM” AND DRONES June 3, 2013

Posted by wmmbb in Human Rights.
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Drone strikes transcend national boundaries and national jurisdictions, and at least for now, conducted either by the CIA or the US military, under some form of direction by the executive office of the US President.

The technology changes the legal framework. Drones can take off and land in one in one area of the world, fly over, attack and kill people in another and be piloted from another country, not necessarily the US. For example, Deutsche Wella reports that some US drone sorties and murders are being controlled from military bases in Germany. Furthermore, it is suggested German sovereignty stops at the base perimeter, and German law or international law does not apply to those who execute the order. It is still true that the legal advice remains secret, as are the decision processes.

Deutsche Well reports:

According to reports from German TV news show “Panorama” and the daily newspaper “Süddeutsche Zeitung,” the US use their German military bases to conduct attacks and targeted killings. The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), based in Stuttgart since 2008, and the US Air Force base Ramstein in particular are said to play substantial roles in the drone war.

AFRICOM coordinates all US missions on the African continent from Germany. Within this context, the reports said, it’s safe to assume that AFRICOM also coordinates the use of drones in Africa. Drones were used to kill suspected terrorist in Somalia, for example. Since 2007, up to 27 people, some of them civilians, have died there in attacks by the unmanned planes, according to the London-based “Bureau of Investigative Journalism.”

Ramstein is important because it is the military base with a satellite relay link to the United States.For attacks in Africa, drones fly from bases in Djibouti, Niger, Ethiopia and on the Seycelles. The personnel who are required to pilot the aircraft are “reportedly” based in Germany, as well presumably as the US. This gives a new twist to the “imperialism of bases”, a phrase coined by Chalmers Johnson.

Deutsche Wella notes:

Most experts agreed that the use of drones outside of war zones, including Somalia, is not acceptable under international law.

“The targeted killing of persons through drones would be impermissible here,” Andreas Zimmermann, professor of international law at the University of Potsdam, said on the German public radio station Deutschlandradio Kultur.

Thilo Marauhn, an international law activist, took the argument even further. “When the German government knows about the killing of a terror suspect by drone outside a war zone and doesn’t protest against it, this could constitute a violation of international law,” Marauhn said in the “Panorama” report.

The  German Government  in a typical way finds cover in confusion:

The opposition demanded clarification from the government. “The government has to get to the bottom of this,” said Paul Schäfer, a member of the parliament’s defense committee for the Left Party. “Otherwise, the suspicion that Germany is part of international law violations remains. That cannot be left out there,”

There seems to be not a lot the German government can do at the moment though, because of a statute that governs the presence of US troops in Germany.

“We’d have to start new negotiations about the troops statute,” Schäfer told DW. “I’m afraid that currently, the German government’s opportunities to intervene are limited. We lack the legal authority.”
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in Berlin that there was an on-going dialog with US officials. “The result is that we don’t have any evidence for behavior that violates international law,” Seibert said. “Speaking for the German government, I cannot confirm the claims that were made in the media.”

Mattias Maass gave the following presentation in Baltimore. He distinguishes the roles of drones as surveillance and attack technologies:

The implications of the drone missile attacks launched in remote locations inhabited often, if not always, by tribal societies are at least twofold. Whether intentional or not, they serve to undermine national sovereignty, and not simply countries in the countries of the third world. Secondly, drone attacks are an ultimate development in asymmetrical warfare, limited to those who control the global satellite resources. In summary, they represent a new dimension in political violence and subversion of the rule of war. “Terrorism” hardly describes their effect and impact.

ELSEWHERE:

Glenn Greenwald observes:

A mere six days after President Obama’s much heralded terrorism speech, a US drone fired a missile in Pakistan that killed four people. On Saturday, another US drone killed seven people, this time in Yemen. There was some debate about whether Obama’s speech really heralded a more restrictive standard for drone use; the early results, though not dispositive, seem to suggest it is business as usual.

Surprisingly, Julian Assange appears in The New York Times to caution, in the new age of technology, “know your enemy”.

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