More than 100 organizations in the United States and abroad sent a letter to President Joe Biden Wednesday, requesting an end to U.S. drone strikes “outside of recognized battlefields.” The letter was organized by the American Civil Liberties Union and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Clinics, and it considers the attacks a violation of human rights and racial justice.
“We write to demand an end to the unlawful program of lethal strikes outside any recognized battlefield, including through the use of drones,” the letter, signed by 113 organizations, said. “We appreciate your stated commitments to ending forever wars, promoting racial justice, and centering human rights in U.S. foreign policy. Disavowing and ending the lethal strikes program is both a human rights and racial justice imperative in meeting these commitments. Twenty years into a war-based approach that has undermined and violated fundamental rights, we urge you to abandon it and embrace an approach that advances our collective human security.”
The co-signers comprise 77 human rights groups and 36 organizations based abroad, including in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan where the U.S. has used drone strikes. Human rights groups have denounced drone strikes against what military leaders consider terrorist targets and, in some instances, extrajudicial killings that also kill civilians. The Obama administration expanded the drone attacks in his first term and then imposed restrictions in his second term. Former President Trump lightened the rules used for drone strikes, noted The Hill.
Biden has initiated a review of the policy on drone strikes outside of traditional war zones and imposed temporary limits on the strikes shortly after he took office.
Drones are an important part of current U.S. military strategy. It launched airstrikes against Iranian-based militia groups in Syria according to the Pentagon last Sunday. The strikes hit sites used to launch drone attacks on U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq, said Pentagon Press secretary John Kirby in a statement, according to USA Today.
“Specifically, the U.S. strikes targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one location in Iraq, both of which lie close to the border between those countries,” Kirby said. “Several Iran-backed militia groups, including Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, used these facilities.”
The U.S. is not the only nation that uses drones for attacks.
Navy Cmdr. Jessica McNulty said Sunday night that Iranian-backed militias launched five drone attacks against facilities used by U.S. and allied troops in Iraq since April. Militia members have also fired rockets.
“The U.S. strikes hit their intended targets,” McNulty said in USA Today. “Their elimination will disrupt and degrade the operational capacity of the militia groups and deter additional attacks.”
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