Out of the Shadows: recommendations to Advance Transparancy in the Use of Lethal Force

The U.S.’ government policy and practices of lethal force overseas remain unjustifiably and excessively secret, although it took some steps towards improving transparency between 2010 and 2016. Far too much remains unknown, with nearly all past strikes and civilian casualties unexplained, strikes in Pakistan remaining almost wholly unacknowledged, little information on accountability and the legal basis for strikes in specific cases, and a continued lack of clarity regarding the application of key legal and policy rules.

Transparency matters – not only for victims of drone strikes, but also for compliance with international law, protection of the rule of law, democratic accountability, harm deterrence, and U.S leadership and credibility. Therefore, the U.S. government should urgently improve transparency regarding its use of force overseas. The excessive secrecy of the Bush and Obama administrations led to widespread criticism, undermined counterterrorism efforts, and increased the suffering caused to those injured and the families of those killed. The U.S. government should resist any temptation to reinstate greater secrecy, and should instead continue to advance transparency and accountability.

The Report ‘Out of the Shadows’ is published by the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic and Sana’a Centre For Strategic Studies and identifies recommendations the U.S. and other governments should take to advance transparency, account for past harms, meet their human rights obligations, and set a rights-promoting precedent.

Date: 01/Jul/2017
Author: Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic and Sana’a Center For Strategic Studies

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