Drone Wars is today publishing ‘Falling Short: An analysis of the reporting of UK drone strikes by the MoD.’ Since the beginning of air attacks against ISIS in Iraq and Syria (Operations Shader), the MoD has periodically published reports of the RAF strikes on its website. Law lecturer and member of the Drone Wars Steering Committee, Max Brookman-Byrne, has undertaken quantitative analysis of these reports and examined them in the light of international law.
The report finds that while the MoD’s attempts to be transparent in this area are to be welcomed, too often insufficient information is given. The fact that nearly half of all reports of drone strikes fail to convey sufficient information for even cursory or superficial assessments in light of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is highly concerning. It means that while the MoD’s reports provide an apparently transparent framework, in reality they fall short in this regard.
Max Brookman-Byrne writes: “The fact that some air strikes are described in detail, particularly those that seem the most palatable, makes the absence of detail in others difficult to understand. It is not suggested that the MOD include detail on the legal analysis that surrounds each air strike, but it ought at least to include enough of the factual information around a strike to enable a prima facie conclusion that a strike probably adhered to international humanitarian law in terms of targeting. This is particularly so given that it only takes a small number of words to enable such a conclusion.”
Key points of the report are:
-- Nearly half of the reports do not provide sufficient information to make a basic determination as to whether the strike accords with relevant law.
-- The presence of civilians has been airbrushed from the reports. It is suggested that each report should include a short statement about whether civilians were, were possibly or were not present in the vicinity of a strike.
-- Inappropriate metaphors such as ‘hunting’ and the shorthand description of individuals as ‘terrorists’ or ‘extremists’ instead of providing an explanation as to why those individuals were targeted should be avoided.
Click here for the full report, on the Drone Wars website.