23 October 2014

UN expert: Growing use of drones in law enforcement may violate human rights

In presenting his report on the use of armed drones within law enforcement, Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, stressed that such mechanised systems, controlled by a human from a distance, ‘can hardly do what police officers are supposed to do’, such as using the minimum force required by the circumstances. ‘The situation becomes even more problematic when the police use increasingly autonomous weapons – that is, weapons that have on board computers which decide on the use of force,’ Mr. Heyns continued. ‘The decreased personal involvement of police officers in the deployment of force raises the question, among others, of who is responsible if things go wrong.’

The Special Rapporteur reminded member states that the protection of rights such as the right to life and personal security and of human dignity outweigh the advantages gains from outsourcing police work to machines. In addition, he noted the requirement under human rights law calling for authorities to use the minimum amount of force required by the circumstances of each case, citing an increasing number of examples in which individuals were killed or seriously injured as a result of improper use of weapons considered to be less lethal. He added that ‘[t]he relationship between the State and those under its protection is very different from its relationship with those it regards as its enemies during armed conflict.’

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Source: UN News Centre | Growing use of drones in law enforcement may violate human rights, warns UN expert

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