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U.S. Votes No on HRC Resolution on Remotely Piloted Aircraft
March 26, 2015

Item 3: Resolution Entitled “Ensuring use of remotely piloted aircraft or armed drones in counterterrorism and military operations in accordance with international law, including international human rights and humanitarian law,” A/HRC/28/L.2

Explanation of Vote by the Delegation of the United States of America

Human Rights Council 28th Session

Geneva, March 26, 2015

This is the second year in which a resolution focused specifically on remotely piloted aircraft has been offered, and, as was the case last year, the United States will vote no. Our reasons for not supporting a resolution on this subject were set forth in the Explanation of Vote we provided last year, and I will reiterate those points today. The United States firmly supports the Human Rights Council’s important role in promoting respect for human rights in the context of our collective efforts to counter terrorism. However, we do not believe that the examination of specific weapons systems is a task for which the Human Rights Council is well-suited or for which it possesses the requisite expertise. We do not support efforts to take this body in that direction, and in doing so usurping the mandates of bodies intended for such matters. And to the extent that this resolution deals with cross-cutting issues pertaining to human rights and counterterrorism, this resolution is largely duplicative of work being undertaken in the Council and other venues.

At the international level, we have engaged in discussions in this body and elsewhere about remotely piloted aircraft in the context of broader discussions about human rights and counterterrorism. We are a traditional co-sponsor of the Mexican-run counterterrorism resolutions in the Human Rights Council and UN General Assembly, the two most recent iterations of which have explicitly addressed remotely piloted aircraft.

With respect to our own counterterrorism operations, as we have stated publicly at the highest levels of our government, the United States is committed to ensuring that our actions, 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.

In our view, this resolution should not have been tabled. The fact that this resolution has been run for the second year in a row compounds the unfortunate effect of diverting this Council’s attention from critically important issues that fall squarely within its competency and expertise and that would benefit from the Council’s increased focus, and that the international community looks to this body to address. Within the realm of human rights and counterterrorism, these issues include the use of force against peaceful protesters, the suppression of civil society or opposition voices on the pretext of countering terrorism, and the detention of such individuals without minimum due process guarantees. We look forward to future council sessions where our efforts can be channeled in more productive directions.

In this context, and for the reasons we have already noted, the United States will vote NO. We urge others to do the same.