by Mary Dobbing
Afghan Peace Volunteers and VCNV UK hosted an international seminar about armed drones in Kabul for grass-roots peace activists and the local press. As far as we know it’s the first attempt to do such a thing. Here are some notes from the day.
Drone experts joined us from UK: Chris Cole from Drone Wars UK, Chris Woods investigative journalist and author, and Jennifer Gibson an international human rights Lawyer with Reprieve. After a half day presentation about drones and Afghanistan two days ago, the Activists and Press asked questions of the experts joining by us skype.
Javid asked “Do you think Afghanistan is singled out as a playground for other countries to wage war in? Were we singled out?
Jennifer Gibson (Reprieve) said, Afghanistan is a country where wars can be waged without any accountability. ISAF, with UN’s permission, have been carried out this long war without any accountability. What worries Jennifer is that unaccountable war has happened in Afghanistan for thirteen years and is now being exported. This lack of accountability is now being exported to Iraq and Syria.
I added, new military technologies such as drones makes this possible.
Chris said “with this kind of technology war becomes invisible and unaccountable, and its a threat to global security. We need to work together to end it.”
Chris Cole told us that Afghanistan has been the country most bombed by drones.
From Chris Woods we heard that there are two drone wars going on side by side – Operation Enduring Freedom which ends 31st December, that has some accountability as a UN Security Council approved action, and another being waged by US Special Forces which is ultra secret and completely unaccountable. Both drone wars will carry on (now Operation Resolute Support).
Jennifer Gibson was emphatic that there will have been war crimes committed by the use of drone strikes. International Humanitarian Law dictates that lethal force can only be used that is discriminate (between combatants and non-combatants) and proportionate. To kill a combatant they must be directly commiting a violent act which threatens your own forces. Its not legal to kill ordinary criminals such as drug dealers (check recording for wording).
We need evidence about drone strikes such as where? and who? The names and details of all casualties of combat are needed – combatants and civilians. With these details we can challenge all the governments concerned, US/UK and Afghanistan.
Jennifer Gibson concluded – it is crucial to get information from the ground and to get it into the public domain. Reprieve and Drone Wars UK can get the data into the public domain and hold governments to account at the International Criminal Court
Are there more drone strikes in Afghanistan than Pakistan?
Chris Cole said yes, more than anywhere and Afghanistan was where the first drone strike was fired in October 2001.
Gulamai asked if Afghanistan gave permission for drone strikes.
Jennifer Gibson said that after the Bilateral Security Agreement was signed between the US and the new Afghan Government, under international law it is legal to make drone strikes if a government invites a foreign force in to help out with an insurgency, and it doesn’t need UN security council sanction. Its called a non-international armed conflict in international law.
The next day we looked up the Drone Wars UK website only to find it had been blocked by the Afghan Government. Four days later it was reinstalled.