Military drone pilots could be prosecuted as war criminals

Paul Raven @ 29-04-2010

A while ago, we were wondering whether killing a drone or UAV pilot counted as a legitimate act of war. Still no word on that one, but there’s more bad news for the CIA drone pilots in the form of a professor of national security law who suggests that the drone pilots – and their superiors – could be prosecuted for war crimes in the countries where their attacks take place:

Loyola Law School professor David Glazier, a former Navy surface warfare officer, said the pilots operating the drones from afar could — in theory — be hauled into court in the countries where the attacks occur. That’s because the CIA’s drone pilots aren’t combatants in a legal sense. “It is my opinion, as well as that of most other law-of-war scholars I know, that those who participate in hostilities without the combatant’s privilege do not violate the law of war by doing so, they simply gain no immunity from domestic laws,” he said.

“Under this view CIA drone pilots are liable to prosecution under the law of any jurisdiction where attacks occur for any injuries, deaths or property damage they cause,” Glazier continued. “But under the legal theories adopted by our government in prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, these CIA officers as well as any higher-level government officials who have authorized or directed their attacks are committing war crimes.”

Somehow I can’t see that stopping the AfPak drone war any time soon, especially given how popular UAVs are with the US military nowadays – it’s gotta be easier to sign people up for battlefield wetwork when they can do it with no risk of being shot in return, I’m guessing. And hey, laws can always be superceded (or just plain ignored), especially if you end up winning.

Then again, they thought Nam would be a cakewalk, didn’t they?

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