UK move sparks ‘ban killer drones’ call
26 April 2013
First protest targets operations centre RAF Waddington
Campaigners are calling on the government to stop using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or “drones”, as Britain has started controlling them from a domestic base.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed this week that British Reaper drones in Afghanistan are now being controlled from air conditioned trailers at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.
In a first national protest tomorrow (Saturday), campaigners will target RAF Waddington, the new launchpad for British remote-controlled drones.
Earlier, RAF pilots operated UK armed drones over Afghanistan from a US base just outside Las Vegas in Nevada.
Activists warn that Britain switching control of drones to Waddington away from US bases marks a critical expansion in the nation’s drones programme.
The move coincides with UK plans to increase the number of remote-operated Reaper aircraft from five to ten.
Four organisations - CND, the Drone Campaign Network, Stop the War and War on Want - are breaking new ground by joining together to step up their drive amid growing public concern.
According to the groups, drones have become the latest weapon of choice in the so-called war on terror.
Britain first deployed unarmed aerial vehicles in Afghanistan, but soon equipped drones with 500lb laser-guided bombs and Hellfire missiles.
The UK has launched at least 350 drone strikes in Afghanistan.
The government is developing some drones at BAE Systems and using Reaper drones bought from the US.
It is also leasing Israeli drones for use in Afghanistan, while awaiting completion of a new British surveillance drone called Watchkeeper.
The Watchkeeper contract was awarded to Israeli company Elbit and its partner company Thales UK.
War on Want senior campaigns officer Rafeef Ziadah said: “Drones, controlled far away from conflict zones, ease politicians’ decisions to launch military strikes and order extrajudicial assassinations, without democratic oversight or accountability to the public. Now is the time to ban killer drones – before it is too late.”
The CND general secretary Kate Hudson said: "It's time to end this remote killing before even more innocent civilians are slaughtered - they are the main victims in this barbaric form of high-tec killing."
Chris Nineham, vice-chair of the Stop the War Coalition, said: "Drones are being used to continue the deeply unpopular War on Terror, with no public scrutiny. They're using them to fight wars behind our backs. These remote-controlled killing machines should be banned."
NOTES TO EDITORS
- The march starts at 12:30 pm BST from Lincoln’s South Park, LN5 8EN. The rally takes place at 2 pm at the Peace Caravan, by the A15, outside RAF Waddington.
- The rally will take place at 2:00 pm outside the gates at RAF Waddington (Lincoln, LN5 9NB)
- The Drones Campaign Network (DCN) is a UK-based network of organisations, academics and individuals working together to share information and coordinate collective action in relation to military drones.
- The Stop the War Coalition was founded in 2001 to stop the military intervention in Afghanistan proposed by the United States and its allies against “terrorism”. In 2003 it brought together up to two million people - Britain’s largest demonstration - to oppose intervention in Iraq.
- CND campaigns non-violently to rid the world of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and to create genuine security for future generations. It opposes all nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction: their development, manufacture, testing, deployment and use or threatened use by any country.
- War on Want fights poverty in developing countries, in partnership with people affected by globalisation. It campaigns for human rights and against the root causes of global poverty, inequality and injustice.
CONTACT: War on Want media officer Paul Collins (+44) (0)20 7324 5054 or (+44) (0)7983 550728