12/03/2013 06:16 GMT | Updated 12/05/2013 06:12 BST

US Drone Killings Pose a Threat to International Law

On 6 March, Members of the European Parliament Ana Gomes, Rui Tavares, and Sarah Ludford co-sponsored an event titled 'The Human Rights Implications of the U.S. Targeted Killing Program' at the European Parliament in Brussels, at which they were briefed by UN Special Rapporteur for Counter Terrorism and Human Rights, Ben Emmerson QC. Director of National Security Policy for the American Civil Liberties Union Hina Shamsi explained that there is a massive lack of transparency from the US government on this issue.

Afterwards the MEPs made the following statement condemning the United States' targeted killing programme under which the CIA and the military hunt and kill individuals suspected of links to terrorism anywhere in the world. We are extremely concerned about the legal basis, as well as the moral, ethical and human rights implications of the United States' targeted killing programme, which does not respect due process or the rule of law and instead addresses terrorism as an act of war rather than a crime allowing the US to engage in wartime conduct and forego the legal system and transparent justice.

Statement by MEPs:

"We are deeply concerned about the legal basis, as well as the moral, ethical and human rights implications of the United States' targeted killing programme that authorises the CIA and the military to hunt and kill individuals who have suspected links to terrorism anywhere in the world.

Despite having abandoned the 'War on Terror' rhetoric, the US sticks to the notion that it is in the realm of a war, and not organised criminality, when fighting terrorism. It has a destabilising effect on the international legal framework. International law regulates both justification to engage in war and limits to acceptable wartime conduct. It foresees that in the context of armed conflict, states may use lethal force against individuals who are directly taking part in hostilities. We, however, contest the validity of the United States' legal capacity to justify the deadly force it is employing when compared to traditional definitions of war developed over centuries. In any case, international law demands that civilian bystanders must be protected from harm

We are, therefore, deeply concerned that the US is not abiding by its International Law obligations, under both International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law. Our concern is not only for the victims of this US policy, but also for the threat to international legal standards from this US attempt to undermine them.

There are a growing number of reports demonstrating that hundreds of civilians are being killed in the framework of the targeted killing program. This is being done without any transparency in justification of a 'wartime' policy. We urge our American allies to address the pressing questions over the legal criteria at the basis of a policy that, in targeting so-called militants, destroys both innocent human beings and our common legal heritage.

We cannot remain silent. The European Union and its Member States must speak up against a practice that will set a dangerous and unwelcome precedent for International Law. Europe has a critical role to play in global security. For that reason we must approach our American friends and allies in a transatlantic effort for stability founded on the fundamental principles of human rights, human security and the rule of law. We strongly believe that the US policy on targeted killings puts global stability and international order at risk, entails the proliferation of the technology used for that purpose, and also entails retaliation from state and non-state actors through selective killing, possibly of US and European citizens. We, thus, commend the efforts of all civil society organisations which are seeking to ensure US adherence to international legal obligations.

We will struggle to constructively engage with our US allies in all EU-US parliamentary fora and we will remain committed to keeping the issue of targeted killings on the EU agenda.

Up to this day, no EU Member State has supported the US legal analysis and justification for use of armed drones in targeted killings in responding to the threat of terrorism. EU Member States have chosen to respond to that threat in a way that is consistent with International Law, which is also, crucially, consistent with EU values and principles. We will be demanding from Member States that they reaffirm that commitment, internally and externally, and we strongly believe that this is the only approach that enhances global security and human rights without diminishing either".