US Congress Debates Drone Use Against People: Legal Questions
The legality of unmanned aerial vehicles in warfare is being debated in the U.S. Congress. The unmanned UVA's or drones are believed to be in widespread use in Afghanistan and Pakistan in action against the al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives.
It is widely suspected that the US has used drones frequently to target al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan, although Washington has never admitted nor denied it.
It is known that the U.S. possesses drones but there is no official acknowledgement of their use in combat. The U.S. congressional panel is debating the legality of using drones to target al-Qaeda or Taliban targets. The task is made more difficult by the U.S. military's refusal to confirm or deny their use against targets, particularly in Pakistan.
Collateral damage occuring when a drone is off target or incorrectly guided has resulted in the deaths of civilians. Civilians near a missle strike may be unlucky 'side damage' when a bomb hits the target.
Drones are increasingly popular with the military because:
- they are much cheaper than a manned plane
- they can be remotely controlled or preprogrammed for a target, ensuring the safety of the operator.
- they can fly close to the ground avoiding detection systems
- they can carry missle payloads or reconnaisance cameras
This debate over the legality of using drones against people comes as their use is becoming ever more widespread. This June there will be an international conference in Dubai - UAV'10 - bringing together experts from many fields to discuss the future use of these unmanned aerial vehicles.