Drone strikes and civilian casualties

This conversation will explore the record of US drone strikes, ask whether the US has done enough to answer concerns about transparency and accountability, and discuss whether the UK and other European countries could contribute to better international standards on the subject

Guests

Ben Emmerson QC, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counterterrorism

Mustafa Qadri, Pakistan Researcher, Amnesty International

Letta Tayler, Senior Researcher, Human Rights Watch

Chaired by

Anthony Dworkin, Senior Policy Fellow, ECFR  

Earlier this year US president Barack Obama announced what he described as new, more restrictive guidelines on drone strikes. But while the numbers of strikes have gone down, concerns remain about the lack of transparency and accountability surrounding the US targeted killing programme. While US officials claim that they take great pains to avoid civilian casualties, critics have charged that these figures understate the true cost of US drone strikes.

This autumn the debate over drone strikes has been reignited by a series of high-profile analytical and investigative reports. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counterterrorism Ben Emmerson identified 33 strikes that appeared to have caused civilian casualties and examined the factual and legal questions they raised. Amnesty International analysed the record of US drone strikes in Pakistan, and Human Rights Watch published a detail of drone strikes and targeted killings in Yemen.

This conversation with the authors of all three reports will explore the record of US drone strikes, ask whether the US has done enough to answer concerns about transparency and accountability, and discuss whether the UK and other European countries could contribute to better international standards on the subject.

Ben Emmerson QC is the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counterterrorism and author of a recent interim report on the on the use of remotely piloted aircraft in counter-terrorism operations. He is an international lawyer specialising in European human rights law, public international law and international criminal law at Matrix Chambers.

Mustafa Qadri is the Pakistan Researcher at Amnesty International. In October, Mustafa launched Will I be next? the most detailed human rights study ever carried out into specific drone strikes in Pakistan. Mustafa has worked as a journalist covering Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East and as a lawyer.

Letta Tayler is a Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch, where she covers terrorist acts and counterterrorism tactics, and wrote Between a Drone and Al Qaeda. She also directed HRW’s coverage of the 2011-12 Yemen uprising. Before joining Human Rights Watch in 2008, Tayler was a journalist for more than two decades.

Anthony Dworkin is a Senior Policy Fellow at ECFR working on human rights, democracy and international justice. He is the author of several papers for ECFR including Drones and targeted killing: Defining a European position. He was previously the Executive Director of the Crimes of War project and is a contributing editor of Prospect magazine.