Drones film is catalyst for broad campaign

  • January 24, 2014
Drones film is catalyst for broad campaign

Gates Cambridge Scholar Jennifer Gibson will be involved in a Q & A about drone attacks at the screening of a film about the impact of such aggression in February.

Gates Cambridge Scholar Jennifer Gibson will be involved in a Q & A about drone attacks at the screening of a film about the impact of such aggression next month.

‘Unmanned: America’s drone wars’ will be screened on 10 February and followed by a Q&A session with Jemima Khan (Co-executive producer), Robert Greenwald (Director) and Neil Williams (Field Producer).

Jennifer works for Reprieve, a London-based legal charity that represents civilian victims of US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. Reprieve worked closely with Robert Greenwald to facilitate interviews with survivors of US drone strikes in Pakistan in late 2012.
 
The film was launched in the US in the autumn with a congressional briefing. Jennifer took a father and his two children, survivors of a drone attack which killed the children’s grandmother, to Washington to testify and attend speaking events in Washington and New York. Parts of the film were shown in the congressional briefing and Jennifer also gave testimony about the broader impact of drone strikes in Pakistan.

The film premiered in the UK in November and the screening was attended by MPs, including Tom Watson.

“It has facilitated access to a new audience. It’s also the first time a victim of a covert US drone attack has spoken to Congress directly,” says Jennifer [2001], who did her PhD in International Relations at the University of Cambridge.
 
“Our aim has been to put a human face to a debate that to date has been entirely about numbers. The US has launched 381 drone strikes in Pakistan, killing over 3,500 people and terrorising entire communities with their constant presence. All of this is happening covertly in a country where there is no declared war and with no proper oversight.

“But the numbers don’t tell the true story. Each person is someone’s mother, father, brother or daughter. And every person in the community is living daily with the buzzing of the drone overhead and the fear that they may be next. The film is a powerful way of bringing the stories of Reprieve’s clients to others who would have otherwise only known them as a number.”
 
Broader campaign

The film has been the catalyst for a broader campaign. Reprieve has plans to bring two more of its clients – one of whom lost a father and one of whom lost a son – to speak at the German, Dutch and British Parliaments at the end of February. 

It is also continuing its work with the US Congress as pressure is building for an investigation into claims of civilian casualties in strikes. “It’s imperative the Obama Administration provide the legal basis for which it’s carrying out these strikes and that it take immediate steps to increase transparency and accountability for its actions,” says Jennifer.

Earlier this month the Court of Appeal refused to hear the case of Noor Khan, one of Reprieve’s clients featured in the film. Khan had asked the court to review the lawfulness of the UK government’s policy of sharing locational intelligence with the CIA in its Pakistan drone programme. The court ruled that, despite finding the arguments persuasive, any ruling by the court would “inevitably be understood…by the US as a condemnation of the US” and, therefore, they would not let the case proceed. Reprieve is now considering its next steps which are likely to involve looking at international and regional courts.

“We are trying to figure out how we can best get justice for the hundreds of innocent civilians killed in illegal covert US drone strikes. Our clients want answers. They want to understand why their families have been targeted and killed. They want someone to acknowledge that mistakes were made. And most importantly, they want the terror of drones hovering overhead 24 hours a day to stop,” says Jennifer.

‘Unmanned: America’s drone wars’ can now be downloaded online for free.

The screening takes place on Monday 10 February, 6 pm, Mill Lane Lecture Rooms, Room 3. Tickets are free and can be booked by following the link in the ‘News’ section.

Picture credit: Victor Habbick and www.freedigitalphotos.net.

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