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Calls in York for the government to scrap military drones


12:02am 18th April 2012
(Updated 12:02pm 18th April 2012)

The moral and legal issues surrounding the military's use of drones is being discussed in York.

Campaign group York Against the War have called the unmanned aircrafts "a coward's weapon".

They've highlighted how hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed by missles dropped in the Middle East.

Tonight a debate will take place at the Priory Street Centre.

Details about the debate from York Against the War

Unmanned drones have many civilian uses (they may well be flying over us during the Olympics), but are more controversially used for military surveillance and attack, in ways which may violate international law, and do affront global opinion.  USAF and RAF "pilots" control drones from a base in Nevada, to execute terrorism suspects - and anyone nearby - in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Somalia.

US drone attacks in Pakistan are increasing, from 9 in 4 years, to over 100 last year alone.  They have killed 2,300 people, of whom at least 400, possibly 800 or more were innocent civilians, including 175 children.  David Cameron has claimed that RAF drones have killed 124 people in Afghanistan: he did not say how many were children.

Our speaker, Chris Cole, a Christian activist who runs the Drone Wars UK blog (www.dronewars.net), will explain features of different types of drone, especially those used in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  He will discuss the contentious features of their use, which - as even the MoD admits - raise "huge moral and legal issues".

Widely seen as a coward's weapon, drones make it easier for a state to assassinate alleged "enemies" far away without risk or accountability - making future wars more, not less likely.  Aside from the dubious morality of extra-legal execution, drones depend on local intelligence to identify their target; and even if the strike is precise, its sudden and devastating effects are not, killing bystanders and neighbours as well as the "guilty".

Meanwhile the US, UK and other military are planning bigger, faster drones - even autonomous drones which "decide" on a target without human intervention.  And now the charity Reprieve is suing the Foreign Office for providing "intelligence" which led to a US drone killing over 40 people at a peaceful tribal meeting in Waziristan.  The debate about drones is heating up.  Chris will bring us news from the front line.

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