Hancock 17 Drone War Crimes Resisters Verdict is Fri., Feb. 7

Friday, February 7, 2014 - 4:45pm
Town of Dewitt Court, 5400 Butternut Drive, East Syracuse
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Audio and written versions of the Closing Statements are available at http://blog.upstatedroneaction.org/

On Friday, January 31, the Hancock 17 Drone War Crimes Resisters trial concluded with Closing Arguments. Eight defendants gave legal and moral Closing Arguments, concluding that they be acquitted of disorderly conduct and trespassing, charges they had received after symbolically blocking the gates of Syracuse's Hancock Air National Guard Base on October 25, 2012. Their nonviolent action had called for an end to drone warfare. 

Legal arguments addressed both international law as well as faults with the charges themselves. Since drone attacks embody terrorism, the defendants were not

defying the law, but rather obeying international law and the U.S. Constitution, which holds that treaties made are the supreme law of the land. While due process is fundamental to the U.S. legal system, it is a luxury not afforded drone attack victims, so the defendants had come to Hancock as first responders to the scene of a crime. They had come to petition their government for redress of grievances, as protected in the Constitution. They argued that judges even at the local level are bound by the rules of international law, as wars of aggression and drone assassinations are crimes against peace and humanity. They challenged the judge to acknowledge his obligation to acquit them.

Three defendants had just returned from meeting drone attack survivors in Pakistan only weeks before the action. Others had been to Afghanistan. Another had experienced the U.S. "Shock and Awe" attack on Baghdad. They lamented how difficult it was to make the horror of drone attacks real for the judge and prosecutor. One defendant spoke on his spirituality, stating that when you see actions that are evil, you must not look away, but instead cooperate with the work of the spirit and do good. Another brought the conversation back home, saying that war has a cost and a face right here at home in the number of people in jails, and that the amount of money going into warfare could be spent much more productively here. 

The defendants argued that the elements of the charges could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. They did not actually interfere with traffic since the gates were already closed and Base personnel chose not to open them. Both the prosecution witnesses and the defendants had testified that the action was orderly and nonviolent; the Nonviolent Pledge the defendants had all taken was read aloud. Since there were no base boundaries marked and no two prosecution witnesses could agree on the exact location of the boundaries, it was impossible to tell if the defendants had been on public or private land.

Assistant District Attorney Jordan McNamara argued that the defendants were well aware of the Base boundaries and that their intent was to block traffic and disrupt business as usual on the base. He did not address the international law issues raised.

The defendants are a part of Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, which seeks to educate the public and Hancock Air Base personnel about the war crimes perpetrated in Afghanistan with the MQ9 Reaper Drone piloted from Hancock Air National Guard Base. See upstatedroneaction.org.