Armed with Hellfire missiles, they are sent on covert “targeted killing” missions against suspected terrorist cells in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. But according to the Bureau for Investigative Journalism at City University in London, more than 430 strikes since 2002 have killed at least 428 civilians, of whom 173 were children.
According to the university, the investment has been under “active management” since then and has reduced to about £400,000. “Having taken on board concerns raised by Eusa, we have taken the decision to disinvest in Ultra Electronics,” a university spokeswoman told the Guardian.
Edinburgh University has an investment portfolio of about £230m, the third largest in the UK after Oxford and Cambridge. Its money is invested in more than 100 companies, including Shell, Total, Tesco and Monsanto.
The university’s move has been welcomed by campaigners, who are now urging disinvestment in fossil fuel companies. “The process of cleaning up the university’s investments can and must be taken further to the issue of environmental responsibility,” said Undine Schmidt from People and Planet.
Catherine Gilfedder, from Reprieve, urged other institutions to follow Edinburgh’s lead. “The covert US drone program has killed hundreds of civilians and traumatized populations in Pakistan and Yemen,” she said.
“In divesting from Ultra Electronics, Edinburgh University has demonstrated its disapproval of companies profiting from such killings, and the importance of socially responsible investment.”
The company was “a responsible exporter of products and technology and rigorously complies with local and international export controls and regulations,” said a company spokeswoman. “Ultra Electronics is listed on the London Stock Exchange and as such people and institutions are free to deal in the company’s shares as they wish.”