UNITED STATES: Drone crime whistleblowers convicted



20 December 2012
STATES: Drone crime whistleblowers convicted

A New York State court convicted fifteen citizens of
trespass on 13 December, following their attempt to interrupt war crimes at a
drone facility.

Upstate New York Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars

has organized protests against Hancock National Air Guard Base, near Syracuse, to raise awareness about Reaper drones, over the last three
years. The base, home of the 174th Attack Wing of the New York Air
National Guard, pilots the MQ9 Reaper drone, used in extrajudicial killings
over Afghanistan. It also serves as the national training center for Reaper

The “Hancock 15” were tried after blocking
the front gate at Hancock on 28 June 2012.  Christian Peacemaker Teams member Chris Sabas,
who was a U.S. litigation attorney before joining CPT, provided legal
assistance as an advisory attorney.

  Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and Clare Grady
at “Hancock 38” action, November 2011. 

The group cited two main objectives for the action.
First, they wanted to present grievances to the government by delivering a War
Crimes Indictment
, co-authored by former U.S. Attorney
General Ramsey Clark, charging Hancock base personnel, up their chain of
command to President Obama, with war crimes, by invoking the Nuremberg
Protocols in international law as well as the U.S. Constitution. The second
objective was to prevent war crimes of extrajudicial killings, killing of
innocent civilians, wars of aggression and the violation of national
sovereignty. Clark previously testified for the “Hancock
in November 2011. Sabas also served as an advisory attorney
in that case.

“Drones may be tactically sound as it saves the
lives of American pilots, but strategically stupid because the Reaper has
become Al Qaeda’s best recruitment tool,” testified resister John
Hamilton. Several independent
have demonstrated that over 95% of casualties from
drone strikes are civilian. The use of armed drones to target and kill
suspected terrorists has increased dramatically during the Obama

“I’m here with all I’ve got,” Clare Grady
(Hancock 38; St
Patrick’s Four
) testified, “my life, my body, my
words.” She continued: “Where did we go wrong when we think other
people’s children are not precious as ours?”

During his closing argument, Hamilton said, “There
is no exception anywhere, for you, for me, for anyone from this overarching
legal certainty: acts of aggression are always and everywhere illegal, and must
not be ignored by the courts. Extrajudicial murder must be called out and
stopped.”  Placing the lynching of
African Americans throughout U.S. history alongside extrajudicial killings by drone,
he continued: “We ask that you take a bold step tonight to end
lynching, not in some back wood Alabama town in 1912, but here, in Dewitt, in
2012. We ask you to find us not guilty[.]”

Throughout the trial, the group classified their
actions as “civil resistance,” not “civil disobedience”:
resistance to uphold the law rather than to challenge it via protest.  The judge did not allow the war crimes
indictment into evidence, thus limiting his scope of interpretation to New York
state law. After ten minutes of deliberation, he found them all guilty and
sentenced five of the group to fifteen days in jail.


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