Drones: states must ‘scrupulously respect’ limits laid down in international law

Council of Europe member States should “scrupulously respect” the limits placed on targeted killings under international law when carrying out combat drone strikes, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly said today.

Adopting a resolution based on a report by Arcadio Díaz Tejera (Spain, SOC), the Assembly said States should lay down clear procedures for authorising drone strikes – including constant “supervision by a high-level court” and post-strike evaluation by an independent body.

They should publish the criteria and procedures used for targeting individuals, as well as the results of investigations carried out into deaths caused by drones. They should also avoid any automated ‘robotic’ procedures for targeting individuals based on communication patterns or other data collected through mass surveillance techniques.

The Assembly urged the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to launch an Article 52 procedure under the European Convention on Human Rights to request information on the manner in which State Parties implement the provisions of the Convention concerning the right to life, with particular reference to their own drone weaponizing programmes, and their cooperation with American programmes through information-sharing, and facilitation of targeted killings by drones.

The Assembly also called on Council of Europe governments to undertake a thorough study of the lawfulness of combat drones for targeted killings, and develop guidelines that are in line with international humanitarian and human rights law, including the European Convention on Human Rights.