The United Nations’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings presented a new report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Agnes Callamard’s investigation focused on the legality of armed drones including one that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani near Baghdad’s airport on January 3. It concluded the United States acted unlawfully in carrying out the attack. The US, meanwhile, denounced her findings.
Callamard spoke to Al Jazeera about her probe and the future of drone warfare.
Al Jazeera: What prompted you to write this report?Callamard: I had been speaking with a number of experts for the last year or so about focusing one or more of my thematic reports to the UN on weapons, particularly those being tested or under development, and what these may mean for the future of policing, warfare and, ultimately, the protection against arbitrary killings.
In general, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones figure large on this agenda, and have been the objects of repeated warnings by UN special rapporteurs for more than 15 years. Until January of this year, I did not feel that there was much more I could contribute to the debate given the in-depth work done by my predecessors. Everything changed on January 3, 2020, when the US launched a drone strike against a high-level government official on the territory of a third, non-belligerent country, and outside a known armed conflict.
This incident constituted a significant and troubling development, in terms of the identity of the target, the location of the strike, the many complex legal questions the strike rose and, of course, the implications for peace and security.
The strike against General Soleimani prompted me to return to the topic of drones … in view of the fact that the UN and other actors had been demanding for several years for regulation into what has become an uncontrollable race into developing, exporting and using drones.Al Jazeera: What are the reasons for the increased use of UAVs?Callamard: At this point in time, we have entered what I have described as the second drone age, characterised by an increasing number of states and non-state actors using them, and by drones becoming stealthier, speedier, smaller, more lethal and capable to be operable by teams located even thousands of kilometres away.
Yet, in spite of this exponential growth, both in terms of the number of actors using them and in terms of the technology, we, the people, actually know very little of their usage. Most drones use of force remain largely secretive operations, with little to no oversight by independent bodies. They carry little political cost for politicians and the militaries because they do not involve troops on the ground, and the risks to the lives of those operating drones are minimal. They are thus the weapons of choice for the wars of the 21st century. And yet, their impact and lethality are real.
Research has highlighted how harmful they are for the communities subjected to them. We need far greater transparency into their use and impact, including through investigation. And we also need public and informed debates over the strategy underpinning the use of drones at this point – that is the so-called decapitation strategy and its actual impact.
Al Jazeera: In your report, you state drones are a lightning rod for key questions of asymmetrical warfare, the protection of life in conflicts and counterterrorism. Why is this?
Callamard: Drones sit at the intersection of counterterrorism and so-called conventional warfare. The allure of armed drones for politicians and militaries alike include their perceived efficiency, effectiveness, adaptability, acceptability and deniability, and relies on dangerous myths. One such myth, already mentioned, is that of the surgical strike.
Another is that wars may be largely bloodless and painless because drones allow for violence to be actualised from a distance with virtually no casualties for those operating them. They offer unprecedentedly asymmetrical advantage in favour of their deployer; promising limited damage to other than the intended target, with low-to-no risk of direct damage for the initiator. These are extremely dangerous notions, legally, politically, and morally speaking.
With few to no risks involved for those directing or operating drones, including little risk of legal accountability, as President Obama pointed out himself, “the typical decision-making barriers to the use of force has become eroded … because they do not attract the public scrutiny that a troop deployment invites”.
Al Jazeera: What form of accountability should flow from the illegal use of armed drones?
Callamard: Drones are not unlawful weapons. What need to be regulated is both the technological development and their usage. The use of drones … must be lawful under three bodies of law: The law of self-defence, international human rights law, and international humanitarian law.
In practice, very little accountability occurs. There has been a few lawsuits by victims of drones strikes, but these often do not succeed because courts claim they have no jurisdiction over extraterritorial activities. At this point, as explained in my report, accountability requires at least three commitments or changes.
The first is internationally: We need the international community to develop robust international standards governing the development, export, and use of drones. We also need UN decision-making bodies and member states to engage with the use of drones and more generally any claims by states that they are acting in “self-defence”.
A second intervention for accountability is with the parliaments of countries that produce, export, and use drones. They must be prepared to play a much more active role and approve and scrutinise a country’s lethal use of drones. They should enact stricter controls on the transfer of military and dual-use drone technology, and apply clear criteria to prevent irresponsible transfers for instance.
A third intervention is at the level of the judicial sector: Courts must be prepared to declare that a country’s human rights treaty obligations can apply in principle to the conduct of a state outside its territory, and that drones strikes and their targets should be considered within the jurisdiction of the state operating the drone.
An unmanned US Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field in southern Afghanistan [File: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP]
Al Jazeera: What can be done by the judicial sector?
Callamard: Thus far, courts have largely refused to provide oversight to drones’ targeted killings extraterritorially, arguing that such matters are political, or relate to international relations between states and thus are non-justiciable. A blanket denial of justiciability over the extraterritorial use of lethal force cannot be reconciled with recognized principles of international law, treaties, conventions, and protocols, and violates the rights to life and to a remedy. There are notable and recent exceptions to this state of affairs, which may augur of a stronger legal response to drone use of force. A watershed ruling is that of an administrative court described in my report.
Al Jazeera: What does the killing of Soleimani tell us about the state of the world?
Callamard: The killing of General Soleimani shows how dangerously close the world has been to a major and deadly crisis. It should send us all a clear warning. The international community now confronts the very real prospect that states may opt to “strategically” eliminate high ranking military officials outside the context of a “known” war, and try to justify such a killing on the grounds of the target’s classification as a “terrorist” who posed a potential, undefined, future threat.
More generally, the exponential use of drones reflects a race for armaments which presents extraordinary risks for us all. Such a race is taking place in the midst of persistent and repeated attacks against basic principles of humanity – hospitals and schools are routinely targeted by parties to a conflict; human rights defenders, journalists and dissidents living in exile do not find safety abroad but continue to be threatened, harassed, and sometimes killed.
War is at risk of being normalised as a legitimate and necessary companion to peace. We must do all that we can to resist this deadly creep.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity
Analysis: The second intifada, a spontaneous act that shocked Israelis and Palestinians
September 22, 2020 by intelNews On the 20th anniversary of the outbreak of the second intifada (October 2000), the debate arises again in Israel as to whether the Palestinian move was an initiative of Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority or whether it was a spontaneous evolution on the Palestinian side that largely surprised not…
September 22, 2020
On the 20th anniversary of the outbreak of the second intifada (October 2000), the debate arises again in Israel as to whether the Palestinian move was an initiative of Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority or whether it was a spontaneous evolution on the Palestinian side that largely surprised not only Israel but also the Palestinians.
One opinion in Israel states that the intifada was the result of an initiative by the head of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, and that Israeli intelligence knew about it in advance and warned Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who did not listen. This opinion was expressed in the memoirs of Maj. Gen. Res. Amos Gilad, formerly the head of the research division in the Israeli Military Intelligence (IMI) and former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff, Lieutenant Gen. Res. Moshe (Boogie) Ya’alon. However, the picture presented by the two former IDF senior personalities seem to be wrong, and in this article, I’ll present another view showing that actually, the IMI (which is responsible for Israel’s national intelligence estimates), contrary to its allegation, failed to predict the Palestinian moves and did not warn the IDF and the Prime Minister to prepare for the intifada.
The different and probably correct opinion has been argued by the ISA (Israel Security Agency, known also as Shabak or the Shin Bet) former managing directors at the time, who discussed the event very openly and presented a clear conclusion: namely that Palestinian Authority Chairman Arafat did not initiate the intifada but was as much surprised by it as was Israel. The source of the views presented by ISA leaders is the book The Gatekeepers (in Hebrew) by David Moreh (2014), in which six former ISA leaders were interviewed. Among other things, the book raised the question of how the second intifada broke out. It is important to mention that there is no doubt in Israel that the ISA is the organization that has the best intelligence on the Palestinian territories.
Avi Dichter, who was the head of ISA at the outbreak of the intifada, said in this context (p. 263): “I do not recognize the intelligence materials beyond the reality that existed, indicative signs that they are heading towards an intifada. The Palestinians did not know that an intifada was going to break out”. Yuval Diskin, who was Dichter’s deputy at the time, says (pages 263,264): “The atmosphere in the Palestinian public, as well as in Israel to a large extent, was that we were going to an inevitable confrontation. I do not know if you remember the media at that time. Everyone prepared for the intifada, prophesied and the prophecy came true […] there were also incidents in Joseph’s tomb. This time the IDF decided that it would be prepared for an eruption. “No one thought we would enter here for five, six, or seven years of suicide bombings and such a large cycle of bloodshed”, according to Dichter.
His deputy, Diskin, went on to talk about internal processes in Judea and Samaria that created unrest against Chairman Arafat, and said: “On the eve of the second intifada there were elections in Judea and Samaria and [Marwan] Barghouti won. Arafat turned the election around because Barghouti was an oppositionist. Barghouti led the intifada and not Arafat”. Diskin notes that, “contrary to what experts say, Arafat did not drive the intifada. He rode the wave later. The Fatah youths started the riots and Arafat was surprised in the early stages by what was happening on the streets. He even tried, not with all his might, to stop the events in the first weeks, at some point he decided to join them and rode the wave in a very nice way”.
Avi Dichter, head of the ISA at the time, says the following later on in Moreh’s book (p. 265): “There was an argument between us and the IDF’s Intelligence Division (IMI) that lasted until Operation DEFENSIVE SHIELD, in 2002. The IMI claimed that the intifada was Initiated by Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria and possibly also in Gaza, and we –the ISA– argued that it has no intelligence back up and it’s all speculation. During DEFENSIVE SHIELD, all the perpetrators of the intifada were arrested by ISA, and told in the interrogations how they were being led into the intifada, how they caught the bull by its horns to gain assets just like Marwan Barghouti did […]. When we interrogated them”, Dichter added, “they told us how they were dragged in and how they started putting names and terms together. I remember there was someone very senior in IMI’s research division, who said, ‘It’s good that ISA is investigating. They can direct their investigations to support their thesis’”. In my (the present author) opinion, the man who said so was Amos Gilad, who was then the head of the research division at IMI.
The question of the initiative for the intifada also arose in an interview given in 2009 by Col. Ephraim Lavie, who was the head of the Palestinian department in IMI at the outbreak of the second intifada. Lavie told journalist Akiva Eldar in Haaretz that he demanded a thorough investigation of the failures in IMI and claimed that a culture of speaking in two voices had developed there, one the oral version for the consumption of the political echelon, and one the written version for internal purposes. According to Lavie, this “formula” allowed the head of IMI and the head of the research division to claim, ‘we told you so’ and be ‘covered’ no matter in which direction reality would develop. Gadi Zohar (Brigadier Gen. Res.), former head of the Palestinian department at IMI, strengthens Lavie’s opinion –in the book Craft of Thought (Hebrew), p. 121– and claims: “The heads of the research division [developed and promoted the] ‘no partner’ theory and [promoted the idea of] Arafat having planned and initiated the intifada, even when it was clear at the time that this was not the professional opinion of the IMI’s Palestinian analysts”.
It should be noted also that an investigation conducted in 2004 by Ephraim Lavei’s successor at the Palestinian desk in the research division of IMI stated that the second intifada broke out as a “popular protest” that sought to release steam and vent the popular outrage accumulated after the failure of negotiations and inability to extract political achievements from Israel, and not as an initiative of the Palestinian Authority.
In conclusion, the narrative that exists among sections of the Israeli public, especially encouraged by the political right, according to which Arafat initiated the intifada, is incorrect. It is essential to know the reality because as a result of errors in the Israeli intelligence, a wrong assessment was presented to the decision-makers, according to which Arafat initiated the intifada. Decisions and vital political moves were made in Israel, which only worsened the situation. In this case, we are facing again the implication of intelligence failures and also the difficulties to predict civil rebellions, which are often spontaneous and diffused, and which make them hard to anticipate.
► Author: Avner Barnea | Date: 22 September 2020 | Permalink
Huawei Plans More Cuts to Jobs, Investment in Australia
The Australian operation of Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei said it would continue to cut staff numbers and investment in the country amid strained relations between Beijing and Canberra.In 2018, Australia banned Huawei from supplying equipment for a 5G mobile network citing national security risks, a move the company criticised as being politically motivated.”In simple…
The Australian operation of Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei said it would continue to cut staff numbers and investment in the country amid strained relations between Beijing and Canberra.In 2018, Australia banned Huawei from supplying equipment for a 5G mobile network citing national security risks, a move the company criticised as being politically motivated.”In simple terms the 5G ban on Huawei has cost us 1,000 high-tech and high-wage jobs from the economy,” Jeremy Mitchell, Huawei’s chief corporate affairs officer for Australia, said in an emailed statement.”We have gone from 1,200 staff to fewer than 200 and by next year it will be lower still.”The Australian Financial Review first reported the comments.Huawei had terminated AUD 100 million (roughly Rs. 530 crores) of research and development investments in Australia since the 5G ban, Mitchell said.Huawei last month said it would end its sponsorship of an Australian rugby league club a year earlier than expected due to a downturn in its business.Diplomatic relations between Australia and China have soured this year after Australia called for an independent international investigation into the source of the coronavirus pandemic.Beijing was angered by the move and has since blocked Australian beef imports, placed dumping tariffs on Australian barley, and launched an anti-dumping investigation into Australian wine.© Thomson Reuters 2020Are Apple Watch SE, iPad 8th Gen the Perfect ‘Affordable’ Products for India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.
BTS Bring Fall-Ready ’70s Disco Threads To Intimate Tiny Desk Concert
NPR Music Last month, ahead of their staggering set of wins at the 2020 VMAs, BTS broke down their latest smash, “Dynamite,” to MTV News. “It’s a really fun disco-pop track about doing what we can do, even when things don’t work out as planned,” RM said. But even as 2020 has been the year…
Last month, ahead of their staggering set of wins at the 2020 VMAs, BTS broke down their latest smash, “Dynamite,” to MTV News. “It’s a really fun disco-pop track about doing what we can do, even when things don’t work out as planned,” RM said.
But even as 2020 has been the year of things not quite working out they way we planned them, BTS has continued to thrive. “Dynamite” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The group picked up four VMAs, including one for Best Pop. And now, even if they can’t rock stadiums with their live spectacle, the group is still making it happen: Their latest performance for NPR Music’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concert series is proof.
The group brought “Dynamite” to life to kick things off, seated in a row and bedecked in their best ’70s attire — flared collars and pant legs and a sea of fall-ready earth tones — from a record shop in Seoul. It’s cool to see the group perform this way, backed up by a band behind them for what’s essentially an intimate in-store moment. And it’s the first time they performed the track with the band to accompany them.
BTS take advantage of that added muscle. For “Save Me,” the piano-led rhythm and live drums lend the track a stadium-grandeur quality, even as the action remains grounded in the diverse vocalizations between all seven members. After, “Spring Day” ends their set on a note of hope, thanks to a preface from RM: “This has been the roughest summer ever, but we know that spring will come, so let’s go together.”
It’s in keeping with a similar message J-Hope told MTV News in that same pre-VMAs interview about “Dynamite.” “We hope this song can be your energy,” he said. If the electrifying, show-stopping VMAs debut can’t be – or if you need just a little more, perhaps something autumnal and sweet — continue the vibes with BTS’s engrossing new Tiny Desk concert above.