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Statement on drones

The HFHR called the Minister of National Defence for explanations regarding the Poland’s military plans to purchase unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs, also known as “drones”) to be used by an independent combat unit.

In May this year, Gazeta Wyborcza reported that the MND plans to acquire 41 sets of unmanned aircrafts and two sets of armed drones with similar combat capabilities to those of US Predator UCAVs used in military operations performed in locations such as Pakistan.

In an interview for the news channel TVN24, gen. Waldemar Skrzypczak, MND Under-secretary of State responsible for armament and modernisation, confirmed the daily’s reports. Gen. Skrzypczak emphasised that the key argument in support of purchasing the drones was their combat effectiveness.

In practice, drones are used by the US military to perform so-called targeted killings, or the physical elimination of individuals involved in activities of terrorist groups or even merely suspected of such an involvement. According to estimates for the 2004-2011 period, only in Pakistan this type of strikes might have killed as many as 2,900 people, 30% of whom were civilian casualties.

Targeted killings raise substantial controversy among human rights activists and international law experts. In addition, drone air strikes were criticised by UN spokespersons who warned that such operations might create a serious precedent enabling states to physically eliminate potential or actual enemies abroad. “This may result in a gradual deterioration of human rights protection”, says Adam Bodnar, HFHR Deputy President.

In its statement, the Foundation expressed doubts whether targeted killings could be ever authorised under the Polish law. Consequently, the HFHR asked the Ministry if the military are planning to use UCAVs in targeted killings operations. In the event such plans are in place, the statement requested the MND to provide a domestic or international legal basis for drone strikes, especially in the circumstances of the armed conflicts currently involving the Polish military.

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