US Judge Acquits Catholic Anti-drone Activists
November 1st, 2013
In an historic decision, five Catholic Worker activists were acquitted of disorderly conduct charges for blocking the main entrance to Hancock Air Base outside of Syracuse NY, in a protest against drone strikes that have killed hundreds of civilians. Hancock Air base, home to the 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard, is a Reaper drone hub whose technicians pilot weaponized drones over Afghanistan.
As reported in The Nuclear Resister, “After the verdict was announced, the D.A. objected, and the judge said to him that he hadn’t found ‘mens rea,’ Latin for ‘guilty mind.’ The five defendants, with powerful eloquence, convinced the judge that their intent was to uphold, not break, the law. This acquittal marks a major breakthrough by those who have sought to strengthen international law, and stop U.S. war crimes, including extra-judicial murder by the illegal drones.”
The drone strikes, responsible for killing hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, have increasingly been condemned by human rights advocates, as well as by Jesuit Superior General Fr. Adolfo Nicolás and Ben Emmerson, UN special rapporteur on counter-terrorism. Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban and survived, and who now speaks out globally for peace, urged President Obama in a meeting to stop the deadly U.S. drone attacks on Pakistan. She said they are killing innocent civilians and turning many ordinary people against the U.S. and onto the side of Taliban.
Recent Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reportshave detailed how U.S. drone strikes kill innocent civilians in Pakistan and Yemen, contrary to President Obama’s assertions. According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as many as 1,000 innocent civilians, including as many as 200 children, have been killed in as many as 376 U.S. drone strikes since 2004 in Pakistan alone, a nation with which the United States is not technically at war.