Armed drone use condemned by World Council of Churches

(Photo: REUTERS / Rich-Joseph Facun)An X-47B pilot-less drone combat aircraft flies over the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, July 10, 2013.

The World Council of Churches has condemned the use of armed drones saying that they pose "serious threats to humanity" and the "right to life" while setting "dangerous precedents in inter-state relations."

These concerns were expressed by the WCC in a statement released by its executive committee on Thursday, when it met in Bossey, near Geneva in Switzerland.

The statement noted that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), also called drones, are permitting countries like the "United States of America, Israel, Russia and the United Kingdom, to move towards systems that would give full combat autonomy to machines."

The WCC governing body, which meets twice a year, calls on governments to "respect and recognize the duty to protect the right to life of their subjects and oppose the violation of human rights.

"The use of UAVs, first made operational in the Balkans war, has subsequently escalated in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia and most recently in Pakistan."

The statement calls the international community to "oppose the unlawful policies and practices, particularly of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan."

The WCC urges the "U.S. government to ensure justice for victims of unlawful drone strikes, including family members of the victims of unlawful killings" and to provide effective access to remedies, especially restitution, compensation to families of civilians killed or injured and adequate protection for their rehabilitation.

The statement said that despite arguments as to the benefits of using drones in reducing the risk of military casualties, it has been consistently observed that drone strikes are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives and have human rights and humanitarian implications.

"Such strikes also set dangerous precedents in inter-State relations."

The statement noted that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon speaking in Islamabad, Pakistan on August 13, 2013 said, "the use of armed drones - like any other weapons should be subject to long-standing rules of international law, including international humanitarian law."

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