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Armed Drones, Counterterrorism, and Human Rights: The Need for a European Voice?

European governments have for a long time shied away from a discussion on the use of armed drones. With a surge in proliferation of this technology—including among European states—it is past time to discuss the legal, ethical, and security challenges inherent to unmanned armed systems, and to regulate their use.

Due to their presenting no risk to the users’ own troops, as well as other unique features, armed drones seem to lower the threshold for the use of lethal force, especially when used by intelligence agencies. Drone programs have accordingly contributed to a significant expansion of extrajudicial killings by governments and have resulted in high numbers of civilian casualties. Because these programs are often shrouded in secrecy, they inhibit transparency, oversight, accountability, and compensation for victims. As European states acquire, develop, and use armed drones, and participate in drone operations of allied forces, they must guard against following dangerous precedents leading down a slippery slope to secret, unaccountable wars.

Join the Open Society Foundations and the European Forum on Armed Drones (EFAD) for the launch of EFAD’s call to action for Europe, which has been adopted by 20 nongovernmental organizations. This event will feature a panel of speakers with firsthand insight into drone operations and the impact of drone strikes.


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    Srdjan Cvijic


    Srdjan Cvijic is a senior policy analyst at the Open Society European Policy Institute.

  • RA

    Radhya Al-Mutawakel


    Radhya Al-Mutawakel is a member of the Yemeni human rights organization Mwatana, and is coauthor of Death by Drone: Civilian Harm Caused by U.S. Targeted Killings in Yemen.

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    Lisa Ling


    Lisa Ling is a former member of the U.S. drone program with access to the Deployable Ground Station weapons system and the drone mission floor.

  • CW

    Cian Westmoreland


    Cian Westmoreland is a former member of the U.S. drone program deployed to Afghanistan.

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    Jay Morse


    Jay Morse is senior advocate at the Center for Civilians in Conflict and is a former U.S. Army aviator and army judge advocate.

  • WZ

    Wim Zwijnenburg


    Wim Zwijnenburg is policy advisor for security and disarmament at PAX, and is the author of Unmanned and Uncontrolled: Proliferation of Unmanned Systems and the Need for Improved Arms Export Controls.

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