UN asked to investigate Australia’s role in deadly US drone strikes

The United Nations has been asked to investigate Australia's role in the death of civilians caused by the United States' drone program.

In a joint letter, the Human Rights Law Centre and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have asked the UN Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism to expand a current investigation into the civilian impact of drone strikes so it also examines Australia's role in locating targets through operations at the joint Aus/US Pine Gap military base.

The Human Rights Law Centre's Director of Advocacy & Research, Emily Howie, said there was growing international concern about the US targeting of people outside of the internationally recognised armed conflict in Afghanistan.

“There is very real risk that Australian officials at Pine Gap are facilitating the killings of civilians and those killings violate the laws of war and human rights law," said Ms Howie.

There is also very little transparency of the US's lethal targeting operations.

“The US drone program is conducted under a shroud of secrecy. There is very little oversight of the decisions made to kill certain individuals or transparency about what legal restraints may be in place," said Ms Howie.

The joint letter asks the Special Rapporteur to expand his investigation to include the following issues relating to Australia:

• The extent to which Pine Gap is used to track targets before a drone strike and in post-strike assessments

• The extent to which intelligence from Pine Gap was used in the 25 case studies the subject of the inquiry

• The nature of the cooperation between Australian and US officials within the base and the level of involvement of Australian officials in obtaining and providing locational data used in targeting

• The basis on which Australia claims its involvement through the Pine Gap base is lawful under both domestic and international law

• The policy that applies to Australian officials at Pine Gap setting out the circumstances in which they transfer data to the US drone program

Ms Howie said Australia should come clean about the role of the Pine Gap facility in the death of hundreds of civilians.

“Australia must immediately disclose the extent to which it participates in the program and the legal standards that it applies to Australia’s role," said Ms Howie.


For further information or comments, please contact Emily Howie on 0421 370 997