The US’s lethal airstrikes in non-battle fields have exacted an appalling toll on Muslim, Brown and Black communities in multiple parts of the world, the group says.
More than 100 human rights and anti-war organisations have urged US President Joe Biden to demand an end to the “unlawful program of lethal strikes outside any recognized battlefield, including through the use of drones,” in a joint letter.
“This program is a centerpiece of the United States’ forever wars and has exacted an appalling toll on Muslim, Brown, and Black communities in multiple parts of the world,” the letter organised by the Human Rights and Security Coalition said.
The Biden administration is currently reviewing the US’ counterterrorism program, and reports say he already secretly limited counterterrorism drone strikes away from war zones. Under the rule of the previous president Donald Trump, the military and the CIA were allowed to decide for themselves whether their attacks were justified, but Biden's administration now asks them to seek White House’s permission, and implement tighter controls.
But the organisations, 77 from the US and 36 based in other countries say, it’s not enough and the approaching 20th anniversary of 9/11 is an “opportunity to abandon this war-based approach and chart a new path forward” that promotes and respects our collective human security.
The counterterrorism drone warfare began as a response to the attacks on September 11, 2001, under former US President Barack Obama. As vice president of Obama, Biden has participated in the administration that ordered targeted killings around the world. Even though Biden tightened the drone strikes rules that were relaxed by Trump, the previous president ended up carrying out significantly fewer strikes compared to the Obama administration.
“We appreciate your stated commitments to ending ‘forever wars,’ promoting racial justice, and centering human rights in US foreign policy,” the letter said.
The organisations also point out that the program has caused damage within the US as well by contributing to further militarized and violent approaches to domestic policing; bias-based racial, ethnic, and religious profiling in investigations, prosecutions, and watchlisting; warrantless surveillance; and epidemic rates of addiction and suicide among veterans, among other harms.
“Disavowing and ending the lethal strikes program is both a human rights and racial justice imperative in meeting these commitments. Twenty years into a war-based approach that has undermined and violated fundamental rights, we urge you to abandon it and embrace an approach that advances our collective human security.”
Libya, Pakistan, Burkina Faso, Yemen, Tunisia, Somalia, and Yemen are among the countries that Obama-era rules are still being applied.
In early May, the Biden administration published a redacted version of secret rules for use of lethal force against terrorism suspects abroad upon ACLU and the New York Times’ transparency lawsuits. The Trump administration has refused to disclose the killing rules in the past.
The rationale behind organisations’ claim that these killings outside of defined conflict zones are “illegal” is based on the fact that the US Congress doesn’t authorise extrajudicial killings at times of peace.