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MPs urge MoD to be open about drone use

The Ministry of Defence must be more open about use of unmanned aerial drones to build public confidence in operations, MPs have said.

The Commons Defence Committee backed calls by a United Nations special rapporteur for a "detailed public explanation" in any case where there is evidence civilians have been killed in a drone strike.

Overall, it concluded Britain's use of drones had complied fully with international law, but said the MoD needed to be as transparent as possible in order to "debunk myths and counter misinformation".

In evidence to the committee, the MoD said it was only aware of one case of a UK drone strike in Afghanistan that had resulted in civilian fatalities. Four Afghan civilians died in the attack in March 2011 on two pick-up trucks carrying explosives. Two insurgents were also killed in the strike.

The committee urged the MoD to accept the recommendation of the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson QC, that details of such incidents should be made public. "We recognise that this is not a simple and straightforward request as to do so could seriously jeopardise continuing operations," it said.

"Nonetheless, we recommend that, to the extent that it is operationally secure to do so, following an event which has resulted in confirmed civilian casualties the MoD should seek to publish details about the incident and any lessons learned from the review process."

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