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U.S. Statement at the Human Rights Council Panel Discussion of Experts on Drones
September 22, 2014

Human Rights Council interactive panel discussion of experts
Statement delivered by Peter Mulrean
Deputy Chief of Mission to the United Nations in Geneva

September 22, 2014

– as delivered –


The United States understands the high level of interest relating to the use of remotely piloted aircraft. As we have stated publicly at the highest levels of our government, the United States is committed to ensuring that our counterterrorism operations, including those involving remotely piloted aircraft, are undertaken in accordance with all applicable domestic and international law and with the greatest possible transparency, consistent with our national security needs. At the international level, we have engaged in discussions about remotely piloted aircraft in the context of broader discussions about human rights and counterterrorism, in bilateral engagements, in multilateral fora, before treaty bodies, and in engagements with Special Rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council.

Much of the focus has been placed on civilian casualties. We would like to re-emphasize a point that we have made on other occasions when we have discussed our counterterrorism operations, but which is fundamental and bears repeating: U.S. forces go to extraordinary lengths to avoid civilian casualties, and we take seriously all credible reports of civilian deaths and injuries. Where civilians are killed or injured, after-action reviews are conducted to determine why, and to ensure that we are taking the most effective steps to minimize the risk of civilians being killed or injured in the future. Although we will not comment on specific cases, were civilians killed or injured in a U.S. strike, condolence and other ex gratia payments may be available.

The United States would like to take this opportunity to draw attention to an important initiative facilitated by the Swiss government and the ICRC. We continue to believe that the best way to achieve our shared humanitarian objectives in armed conflict is by creating a forum that is conducive to serious, non-politicized engagement on important issues involving the law of armed conflict and best practices.  To that end, we have been supportive of the Swiss-ICRC Initiative on Enhancing Compliance with International Humanitarian Law, and we look forward to continuing the work with other States in the coming months.