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Advice: Netherlands Can Arm Its Drones

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Advice: Netherlands Can Arm Drones

(Source: Netherlands Information Service; issued July 17, 2013)


THE HAGUE ---- The Netherlands is allowed to equip drones with weapons in armed conflicts abroad, the advisory committee on international law (CAVV) concludes in recommendations to the foreign ministry.

The Netherlands has unarmed drones which are used among other purposes in the anti-piracy mission off the east coast of Africa. These unmanned mini-planes can however be armed. According to CAVV, international law permits this.

“Armed drones are not banned weapons,” the committee says. They do not differ in terms of legitimacy from other armed vehicles, and there are no special rules in international war law for the use of unmanned planes equipped with weapons.

"Armed drones may be used to attack hostile fighters outside one’s own area in an armed conflict, providing there is a recognised legal basis for this.” (...) “If an attack is carried out by a conventional fighter aircraft like a F-16 is legal under international law, it must also be legal if this attack is carried out by an armed drone.”

The foreign ministry requested the CAVV’s advice in January. It is not yet clear whether the Netherlands has plans to equip the drones with weapons.

The Netherlands has a small fleet of drones. Defence’s most advanced unmanned plane is the ScanEagle. This plane can stay in the air for 16 hours and was deployed by Defence for the first time in August last year above the Gulf of Aden off the east coast of Africa.

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