During the first week of October the European Parliament discussed the situation in Yemen, where the ongoing conflict continues to spread death and destruction. The country is torn by years of internal conflict and international interventions. Since 2003, the United States’ clandestine targeted-killing program has relied on armed drones to target suspected Al-Qaeda militants. Hundreds of strikes took place and over a 1000 people have been killed by drones, including at least 150 civilians. The latest strike took place on September 28, 2018.
Apart from wider concerns over the humanitarian impact of the conflict, concerns over the ongoing use of armed drones were also expressed in the resolution tabled on the 4th October, 2018, on the situation in Yemen. Resolution (2018/2853(RSP) noted that the European Parliament:
Urges the Council, the VP/HR and the Member States to oppose extrajudicial killings, including the use of drones, to reaffirm the EU’s position under international law and to ensure that Member States do not perpetrate, facilitate or otherwise take part in unlawful lethal operations; urges the Council to adopt a Common Position on the use of armed drone
In past resolutions on Yemen, similar concerns were voiced by the European Parliament, such as EP Resolution 2017/2849 RSP that recalled the EP 2014 resolution on armed drones, and in the context of the 2016 2662 RSP resolution on attacks on hospitals and schools as violations of international humanitarian law. The Yemeni NGO Mwatana for Human Rights testified in the European Parliament in 2016 during a hearing for the Subcommittee on Human Rights and Security & Defence on the use of drones.
Under President Trump, minor earlier improvement on transparency and accountability of US’ drone policies have been reversed, making it easier for the CIA to targeted suspected terrorists, and lowering the threshold for accepting civilian casualties, as was reported earlier this year.
Both the Saudi Arabian Air Force and the United Arab Emirates Air Force are operating Chinese made drones and US drones over Yemen. The UAE have confirmed to use armed drones, for example to kill a Houthi leader. At the same time, Houthi rebels have launched so-called ‘kamikaze’ drones at Saudi targets on Yemeni soil and even against targets such as oil refineries in Saudi-Arabia itself. These unmanned military systems with their deadly payload have been supplied by Iran.
After the Houthi take-over in March 2015, the Saudi government formed an international coalition to stop and push back the Houthi advance. This coalition is supported by many Western countries with weapons and logistical support. Current UN numbers suggest between 8500 and 13600 people have been killed, including almost 6000 civilians, while the continued attacks against civilian infrastructure contributed to the outbreak of a famine and cholera, the latter affecting almost 1 million people.