US new drone policy: Rights groups raise serious concerns

US new drone policy: Rights groups raise serious concerns

YORK -A group of human rights organizations have expressed concern that US President Donald Trump’s reported new drone policy increased the risk of civilian casualties, and called for clarification.

The groups, which include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, said the reported policy changes lack transparency in the decision-making process.

“We are deeply concerned that the reported new policy, combined with this administration’s reported dramatic increase in lethal operations in Yemen and Somalia, will add to an increase in unlawful killings and in civilian casualties,” a joint statement said.

In December, Trump signed the 2018 National Defence Authorization Act. The act funds the US military but also requires Trump to make known to Congress any changes to previous drone policies by March 12.

The Trump Administration has refused to publicly clarify whether the Presidential Policy Guidance (PPG), issued under former President Barack Obama, is still in effect.

Leaks suggest Trump has rolled back the safeguards contained within the PPG, replacing them with guidance that gives both the Pentagon and the CIA much greater freedom to carry out strikes in Yemen, Somalia, Niger and elsewhere, it was pointed out.

The reported changes include a relaxing of the “imminent threat requirement”, which means the US may select targets outside of armed conflict, the standard of requiring “near certainty” that the target is present, and an increased role for the CIA.

There has been a sharp rise in the number of US drone strikes in Yemen and Somalia since US President Donald Trump took office, according to a report published in December by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

In 2013, UK-based rights group Amnesty International said the US could be guilty of war crimes by carrying out extrajudicial killings with its drones.