Wednesday, June 20, 2012

UN asks U.S. to provide justification for increased drone attacks



Christof Heyns a UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Execution issued a report that has called on the U.S.to justify its increasing use of drones in attacks. Heyns claims that the attacks take some innocent lives and may violate international law.

Both the U.S. military and the CIA have used drones in a number of countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Heyns says that the U.S. should clarify the legal basis for these attacks. The U.S. has so far refused to do so. In fact the practice has been to simply leak information that the government thinks will be politically positive but when the ACLU tried to get information through the Freedom of Information Act the courts have said that even admitting or denying the existence of the programs would be against national security interests. The legal nonsense continues because it is in the interest of the U.S. government.

Heyns particularly wanted to know the legal basis for killing suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders rather than attempting to capture them. The UN Human Rights Council will be debating the issue in Geneva.

Heyns report notes:"The government should clarify the procedures in place to ensure that any targeted killing complies with international humanitarian law and human rights and indicate the measures or strategies applied to prevent casualties, as well as the measures in place to provide prompt, thorough, effective and independent public investigation of alleged violations," Some of this information was also requested by the ACLU so far without any success.

Heyns noted that all studies indicate that the use of drones has dramatically escalated. The escalation has happened since Obama took office. The Pakistan Human Rights Commission claims that 957 people were killed by drones in Pakistan in 2010 alone.About 20 per cent of those killed in drone attacks are estimated to be civilians. U.S. figures are almost invariably much lower. Similar questions were raised in as 2009 report by Philip Alston to which Washington failed to respond.

Pakistan''s Ambassador to the UN Zamir Akram spoke at the opening session of the UN human rights group. He said that the Pakistani government considers the use of drones by the U.S. in the Tribal Areas is illegal, counter productive and a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty. So why does Pakistan not shoot them down? The U.S. has ignored the Pakistani parliament's demand the attacks stop. I expect that Pakistani politicians as in other countries have lots of hot air for domestic consumption. For more see this article.

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