Friday, April 24, 2015

Resources on Drones and Human Rights

With the revelation that a U.S. military drone accidentally killed two innocent hostages in January of this year, the efficacy of drones is in the news and above the fold once again.  Many advocacy organizations have issued statements about the human rights issues raised by drones, but law teachers may want to find more in-depth analytical materials to use in class.  Here are three sources that would serve as illuminating law school readings.

First, the Columbia Human Rights Institute and the Center for Civilians in Conflict are co-authors of the 2012 publication: The Civilian Impact of Drones: Unexamined Costs, Unanswered Questions.  The 83-page report was the first systematic study of the US government’s covert drone program and its objective was to critically assess US government procedures and standards for ensuring civilian protection and responding to civilian harm from drone strikes.

Second, Professor Sarah Knuckey of Columbia Law School is the editor of the book Drones and Targeted Killings: Ethics, Law, and Politics, newly available in paperback.  According to the publisher's blurb, the book is a unique collection of sources that reveal the dilemmas, concerns, and issues surrounding the use of drone strikes and targeted killings.  The book includes primary sources as well as analysis, and an introductory essay offers background and perspective on the issues. The book's four sections address some of the key elements of the debate: Are drone strikes and targeted killings effective? Are they ethical? Are the legal? Is there adequate transparency and government accountability?

Finally, a different angle on drones is raised by corporate social responsibility lawyers at Foley Hoag.  In Flying High: The Human Rights Implications of Investing in Drones, the Foley legal team reminds investors that the benign uses of drones (for example, delivering pizza) cannot eclipse potentially more troubling uses in military contexts.  Analyzing statements from NGOs and the United Nations, as well as the implications of the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the Foley lawyers conclude that "[u]timately, drones have potential to provide unique and valuable services for military and civilian purposes alike. Awareness of the human rights implications, in addition to potential regulatory and reputational concerns, must come first."

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