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UN rights expert concerned over drone use in domestic law enforcement
UN rights expert concerned over drone use in domestic law enforcement

[JURIST] A UN rights expert said Wednesday that the increase in the use of armed drones in domestic law enforcement may violate human rights [press release]. In his report [text, PDF] to the UN General Assembly, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns [official website] raised a number of serious concerns with regards to the use of armed drones by the police as well as private security firms. Heyns noted:

Questions that are asked about the use of armed drones and autonomous systems on the battlefield intensify when they are used in ordinary policing. The relationship between the State and those under its protection is very different from its relationship with those it regards as its enemies during armed conflict.

According to the report, in domestic law enforcement, officials have a much stronger duty to consider specific circumstances of each particular case, and unmanned robots might not be the best instrument for this purpose.

The use of drones [JURIST backgrounder] is controversial in both the international arena and in domestic circles. In March the UN General Assembly passed a resolution [JURIST report] urging states to comply with international law in the use of armed drone strikes. UN Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson called for transparency and accountability [JURIST report] in the use of drones in counter-terrorism operations in his report in October of last year. A joint Human Rights Watch and International Human Rights Clinic report [text, PDF] also raised possible threats to human rights, such as the right to life, in law enforcement situations. At the same time, in the US, California refused to limit drone use in domestic law enforcement when its governor vetoed a bill [JURIST report] that would have required enforcement agencies to acquire warrants to use drones for surveillance.