Last Thursday, April 25, the film Eye in the Sky, directed by the South African Gavin Hood and produced by the British Guy Hibbert, was screened at the Folkingestraat Synagogue. This thriller delves into the ethical complexities of war with drones through a group of British diplomats who, connected by video call with Colonel Katherine Power at the Northwood military headquarters in England, grant permission to bomb a group of terrorists in Nairobi, Kenya. Power, in turn, steers a military squadron located at the air force base Creech, in Nevada. Through the Internet, more than nine thousand miles away, they execute the order on Kenyan territory with a drone.
However, in the beginning, the mission was not to kill but to imprison, but the images revealed by the drones of the meeting between the terrorists included an arsenal of weapons that would probably be used for a terrorist attack. With that came another twist: a girl, Alia, a few meters from the place where the meeting between terrorists was held. The debate, then, begins. Is it preferable to save the life of a girl and allow a group of terrorists to prepare for a massacre with an arsenal that can end the lives of at least eighty people? Is it worth it to bear the political cost of the death of a girl on behalf of those 80 potential victims? However, the answers to these questions will be traversed by the ambivalence of doing the politically correct and the blind desire to explode one, two bombs, in the name of the common good. In the world, it seems that evil always wins, even if faith says otherwise.
Before the film was played Arjen Vermeer, International Human Law specialist of the Red Cross and special guest of the event, enriched the vision of the spectators with an introduction to the basic principles of IHL: distinction, proportionality, and caution. The distinction between civilians and combatants. Proportionality between the damage that the military attack will cause to civilians and their properties and the advantages that the attack will confer. And finally, caution, do everything possible to hurt the civilians as little as possible. Vermeer invited the audience to have the question “Are those principles respected?” in mind while watching the movie. Just at the moment, it would be decided whether the bomb would be launched or not, the organizers of the event paused the film. “Do you think the principle of proportionality is respected if the bomb is dropped? What would you do?” The panel asked. The answers varied between: “Yes, it would be very bad to be seen killing a girl and the opposition would use that as a very good workhorse but it is something that must be done, many more people will die if it is not done” or “No, definitely I would not do it, that principle is not being respected when launching that missile and it is definitely disproportionate.” There were also those who wondered if, based on the dialogues of the same characters in the film, the principle of proportionality is something that varies depending on the victims, that is if the law is kinder to American and British citizens than to Kenyan citizens. The movie was restart and the bombs fell without mercy. At the end of the event, Arjen Vermeer approached me and assured me that what we had just seen was unquestionably a violation of the IHL. Vermeer said, “In any case I want the spectators to keep those three principles always in mind, even the war has its rules.”