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Journal Article

Drones, Discretion, and the Duty to Protect the Right to Life


Beinlich,  Leander
Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Max Planck Society;

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Beinlich, L. (2019). Drones, Discretion, and the Duty to Protect the Right to Life. German Yearbook of International Law, 62. doi:10.2139/ssrn.3506602.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-A634-3
In 2014, three Yemeni claimants filed an administrative complaint against the German government addressing Germany’s role in the US drone programme. Relying on the right to life under the German Basic Law, the claimants argued that German authorities must prevent the US from using its air base in Ramstein, Germany, for purposes of conducting drone strikes that might unlawfully harm the claimants. On 19th March 2019, the Higher Administrative Court of Münster overruled the court of first instance and partly decided in favour of the claimants. In what is a highly interesting and thought-provoking judgment, the Court not only finds strong reasons to suspect that US drone strikes in Yemen, at least partially, violate international law. Even more, it orders the German government to ‘ascertain’ that the US drone strikes conducted via Ramstein Air Base are compatible with international law and, ‘if necessary’, to ‘work towards’ compliance with international law. Remarkable enough, this outcome is not the only reason why the judgment is worth being discussed: It furthermore raises interesting and difficult questions as to the material and territorial reach of fundamental rights under the German Basic Law, their inter-relation with international law, as well as the scope – and limits – of judicial review in matters of international law and foreign affairs.