Warning that these technologies threaten Human Rights


At least eleven countries have deployed armed drones for the purpose of using force or committing targeted killings, according to a report by the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard.

« The world has entered a ‘second era of drones’ in which numerous state and non-state actors deploy drones with more and more advanced technologies, » said Callamard, whose report details that owning drones is no longer a matter of elite, but there is a race for its acquisition.

Thus, according to the work, in 2020, at least 102 countries have an active inventory of military drones and 40 more own or are in the process of acquiring armed drones. Of the total, some 35 countries would have the largest arsenal of drones and also the most lethal. « Many states are eager to belong to this club of the power that drones give, » said Callamard.

The report, presented this Thursday before the body’s Human Rights Council, warns of the seriousness of the phenomenon of the proliferation of drones, which has happened without regulation or control, and ensures that it gives rise to a series of violations of fundamental guarantees and Human Rights.

In this sense, the United Nations expert has emphasized the lack of supervision and regulation of drone operations. « To date, there are no robust standards that govern its deployment, proliferation, export, or the use of force. There is no transparency, there is no effective supervision, there is no accountability, » he said.

Also, he has emphasized that the murders carried out with unmanned aircraft are ignored by national and international laws, unlike other crimes for which even investigative commissions are created. In fact, he has assured that the evidence shows that many times the deaths, injuries and trauma of civilian populations caused by drones are not even reported.

Low cost and « off-road » capability have made drones the most efficient vehicle for military operations in remote or hard-to-reach areas, the work has highlighted.

For this reason, to eliminate the danger posed by drones and stop their proliferation, Callamard has asked to implement a strict national control on their exports, as well as the technologies developed with these vehicles. It has also called for the use of drones to comply with international humanitarian and human rights laws.

Lastly, the expert has urged the United Nations Security Council to formally address the issue and has urged states to support a proposal by Mexico to establish standards and accountability mechanisms on the use and export of armed drones through a multilateral and transparent process.


Callamard has also highlighted that some influential States have distorted International Law by invoking the self-defense law of the United Nations Charter, and has exemplified his words mentioning the United States, who invoked it to justify the assassination of the Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a drone bombardment of the Iraqi capital Baghdad in January.

In the opinion of the expert, this invocation implies a temporal, geographical and sovereign distortion of the aforementioned law, which stipulates that lethal force is only allowed to avoid an imminent attack, to deal with specific non-state groups or to neutralize threats emanating from a third country when it is unable or unwilling to cooperate.

Therefore, what happened with Soleimani, an event to which the report appoints an annex, « highlights the serious risks to international peace and security of these legal distortions, as well as the expansion of the doctrine of war on terrorism, » he said.

« It was a violation of the United Nations Charter and an arbitrary murder for which the United States is responsible under international law, » said Callamard. The expert has assured that the attack on Soleimani was « illegal » and « an arbitrary execution » and has argued that Washington has not provided evidence to justify this action.