Drones cre­ate new dilem­mas

The Saturday Paper - - Letters & Editorial -

A fine ar­ti­cle, “Flesh and drones” (Jan­uary 27–Fe­bru­ary 2), for the first edi­tion of 2018. Karen Mid­dle­ton points to “the eth­i­cal, hu­man­i­tar­ian and se­cu­rity chal­lenges” of drone strikes. A more pointed ex­pres­sion of which is the moral, le­gal and pol­icy dilem­mas that Aus­tralian De­fence Force per­son­nel who make fu­ture tar­geted killing de­ci­sions us­ing drones will face. She is, how­ever, mis­taken to speak of “the laws of armed con­flict and in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights law” as com­pat­i­ble. I sus­pect she meant to write “in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian law” (IHL). IHL and hu­man rights are com­ple­men­tary but dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent. A tar­geted drone strike that kills civil­ians is law­ful un­der IHL, as “col­lat­eral dam­age” is per­mis­si­ble dur­ing an armed con­flict. Con­trast hu­man rights, its rules are less per­mis­sive when it comes to killing civil­ians. There is no bal­anc­ing of col­lat­eral dam­age and mil­i­tary ne­ces­sity within hu­man rights.

One should be re­ally ques­tion­ing such ne­ces­sity and the pro­por­tion­al­ity of killing civil­ians when con­duct­ing fu­ture drone strikes. At a more fun­da­men­tal level, drone strikes by the ADF out­side of Aus­tralia raise its jus ad bel­lum, gov­ern­ing when force can be used ex­tra-ter­ri­to­ri­ally. The 2015 film Eye in the Sky, star­ring He­len Mir­ren, ex­em­pli­fied these dilem­mas. We should be con­cerned about hack­ing of the ADF’s drone feed by other mil­i­tary pow­ers. The Bri­tish Gov­ern­ment Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Head­quar­ters and United States Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency re­port­edly col­lected live video from Is­raeli Heron TP armed drones as part of Oper­a­tion An­ar­chist, which op­er­ated from a Bri­tish moun­tain­top lis­ten­ing post on Cyprus in 2009–10.

– Greg Ho­gan, Bal­go­wlah, NSW

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