Displaced civilians near Mosul, May 2017. (Maranie R. Staab)

As a UK-registered not for profit company limited by guarantee, Airwars is run day-to-day by its Director and Deputy Director. Their activities are overseen by a volunteer Executive Board, which is elected annually by staff and volunteers.

The leadership team can also call on the expertise of the Advisory Board – a pool of high-skill, pro bono advisers, which usually convenes quarterly.

Executive Board

Jessica Dorsey

Jessica Dorsey is based in the Netherlands where she is the voluntary Chair of Airwars Stichting and is also seconded to the UK Board. She is an Assistant Professor of International and European Law at Utrecht University, an Associate Fellow at the International Center for Counter-Terrorism—The Hague and Managing Editor of the international law blog Opinio Juris. Jessica is an expert in many academic and policy networks focused on the use of armed drones, with a specific emphasis on the use of force, and the interplay of humanitarian law and human rights with efforts to counter terrorism. In 2017 for example, the European Parliament contracted Jessica to publish a study outlining policy guidance for the use of armed drones for Member States.

James Hirst

James Hirst is the volunteer Treasurer of the Board. He assists with the financial administration and oversight of Airwars, and supports the Director and Deputy Director on finance-related issues. James is a journalist specialising in conflict, international affairs; and UK politics. As a correspondent for the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS), which serves UK Armed Forces communities around the world, he has extensively covered the Afghanistan conflict, including 10 months living and working alongside British troops in Helmand Province. He is now based in Westminster reporting on, and providing analysis of, British defence decision making.

Justin Needle

Justin Needle is the volunteer Secretary of the Board. He is a Senior Lecturer in Health Services Research; Policy Programme Director of the Health Policy MSc; and is currently programme director of the Health Policy Master’s programme, both at the City University of London. As an experienced manager in academia, Justin provides Airwars with a great resource of strategic, administrative and managerial knowledge and experience.

Aditi Gupta

Seconded to the Board in 2022, Aditi is Director for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drones and Modern Conflict and Deputy Director for the UK Chapter of Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security. At the APPG, Aditi oversees the Group’s strategy and activities in Parliament, working with MPs and Peers work to improve the accountability, transparency and oversight of the UK’s use of force. She coordinates efforts across Westminster, Whitehall and civil society to strengthen processes to better protect civilians in conflict, working to ensure that any lessons learned are incorporated in emerging military technology policy. At WCAPS-UK, Aditi co-leads the network’s work in the UK to advance the leadership and professional development of women of colour and minorities in the fields of international peace, security, and conflict transformation; and to provide an intersectional lens to global issues.

Advisory Board

Katy Dent

Katy Dent has over 25 years’ experience of providing Human Resources leadership in a range of not-for-profit organisations, including homelessness charities Centrepoint and St Mungo’s Community Housing Association; international aid NGO MERLIN and the South Bank Centre. For ten years she was Human Resources Director of Arts Council England, and currently works as an HR Transformation Consultant for a variety of charities. She has been a Trustee for a variety of counselling, health and arts charities: at present she is a Trustee of Anti-Slavery International. Currently she sits as an Employment Tribunal Panel Member and is a Fellow and member of the HR Leaders’ Network of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Raed Jarrar

Raed Jarrar is an Iraqi-American conflict casualty expert, who is currently Director of Advocacy at Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN). He has previously worked as the Middle East and North Africa Advocacy Director at Amnesty International USA. Since moving to the US in 2005, he has worked on political and cultural issues pertaining to US engagement in the Arab and Muslim worlds. During 2003 whilst working for CIVIC in Baghdad, he conducted a survey of civilian casualties from the invasion of Iraq.

Christopher Kolenda

Christopher Kolenda is a protection of civilians specialist, with a military background. Founder of the Strategic Leadership Academy, he recently served as the Senior Advisor on Afghanistan and Pakistan to US Under Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy, and three 4-star Generals in Afghanistan. He was decorated with the Department of Defense’s highest civilian award for his work on strategy. A veteran of four combat tours in Afghanistan, Chris holds a PhD in War Studies from King’s College, London: his dissertation is a critical analysis of American strategic leadership in post-9/11wars.

Frederik Rosén

Frederik Rosén is a collateral damage expert, and was most recently a Senior Researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies. He is the author of Collateral Damage. A Candid History of a Peculiar Form of Death (Hurst , 2016), which offers a comprehensive perspective on the question of State responsibility for collateral damage victims. He has written widely on global security, and is currently directing a larger policy development project for NATO.

Basile Simon

Basile Simon is a multi-disciplinary researcher bridging between engineering, law, and journalism in promoting accountability for causing harm to civilians. He leads the law program at the Starling Lab for Data Integrity out of Stanford and USC, and is a resident with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) in the cross-NGO investigative group Forensis.
He co-founded Airwars alongside Chris Woods in the first few weeks after the commencement of the Coalition’s bombing campaign in 2014, and now provides strategic and technical advice to the organisation.

Rim Turkmani

Rim Turkmani is a Senior Research Fellow with the Centre for Civil Society where she contributes research to the Conflict Research Programme on the Syrian war economy, and the role of Syrian civil society in brokering peace and creating stability from the bottom up. She is active in Syrian civil society circles, where she works to promote peace and democratic transition in Syria. She previously directed the project Crowd-sourcing Conflict and Peace ‘Events’ in the Syrian conflict which produced a detailed database of instances of violence and peace-making. Dr Turkmani is an Astrophysicist by training and was formerly at Imperial College and a fellow of the Royal Society. Her wider research interests include the history of Islamic science and culture and the impact of Arabic/Islamic science on the scientific revolution of the 17th century.

Chris Cobb-Smith

Chris Cobb-Smith is a munitions and security expert who served in the British Army from 1975 until 1995. In 1996 he joined UNSCOM where he led the investigation team in the search for claimed WMDs in Iraq. In 1998 Chris deployed with the OSCE to Kosovo, where he conducted investigations into potential war crimes. Chris now advises senior media management on safety and security policy and training, and has set up Chiron Resources to provide support to news crews on assignments. He has conducted a number of high profile investigations for the media into combat related events, particularly those culminating in the deaths of journalists, and for NGOs into alleged war crimes and human rights violations.