Page last updated at 16:30 GMT, Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Peer warns about use of armed drones

A peer has warned that there is a danger of slipping into an age of "political assassination" and "targeted killing" with the use of armed drones.

Labour's Lord Judd was speaking during question time in the Lords on 20 November 2012, after a question from the Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Rt Rev Peter Price.

The bishop told the Lords that drone attacks had caused an "unknown number" of civilian casualties in Pakistan "where no armed conflict has been declared and the US is not at war".

He said such acts were "illegal" under international humanitarian law and that there was a need for an "enhanced arms limitation treaty".

Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi said the UK did not use armed drones to hit targets in Pakistan.

She said unmanned air systems drones were used in Afghanistan, primarily for "surveillance and reconnaissance tasks".

Lord Judd told the minister: "There is great urgency in this situation because there is a real danger that we slip into an age of political assassination, targeted killing and the condoning of extra-judicial murder.

"Is there not also a danger that if this trend continues, without careful deliberation internationally about its implications, we could slip into an age in which war becomes an easier management option as distinct from a really grave step to take after everything else has been tried."

Lady Warsi agreed it was an important issue and reiterated that the UK did not use armed drones in Pakistan.

She told peers that the UN special rapporteur for human rights and counter-terrorism was expected to consider the issue of drone strikes in a future report to the UN General Assembly.

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