UN: US drone strikes ‘could be war crimes’ & set risky precedent (photo)
June 22, 2012
The use of drone strikes by the US to combat terrorism flouts international law and may encourage other nations to follow suit, a UN rapporteur says. He stressed that some of the attacks may constitute war crimes.
Christof Heyns, the UN special investigator on extrajudicial killings told a UN conference in Geneva that the US needs to be held legally accountable for the use of armed drones.
“Are we to accept major changes to the international legal system which has been in existence since World War Two and survived nuclear threats?” he said.
He also requested that the Obama administration publish statistics on the number of civilian deaths caused by strikes on suspected terror leaders in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.
“I don’t think we have the full answer to the legal framework, we certainly don’t have the answer to the accountability issues,” he told reporters at the UN Human Rights Council meeting.
He underlined the fact that recent US drone strikes threatened the rule of international law in that many “targeted killings take place far from areas where it’s recognized as being an armed conflict.” Heyns added that drone strikes may be legally justifiable in conflict zones such as Afghanistan.
He went on to say however that if “there have been secondary drone strikes on rescuers who are helping [the injured] after an initial drone attack, those further attacks are a war crime.”
Lampooning the US stance that targeted strikes are a legitimate response to the 9/11 attacks orchestrated by Al Qaeda he said “it’s difficult to see how any killings carried out in 2012 can be justified in response to [events] in 2001. Some states seem to want to invent new laws to justify new practices.”
The US argues that its drone strikes are highly effective at combating insurgency abroad and do not violate international law. However, Washington has come under fire recently for multiple drone incursions that killed dozens of civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Both China and Russia issued statements to the UN Human Rights Council this week condemning the US use of drone strikes.
Pakistan rallies to oppose US drone strikes
June 10, 2012People in Pakistan have once again taken to the streets in protest against intensifying US assassination drone strikes against the country’s troubled tribal regions. The protesters gathered in the port city of Karachi on Sunday.
On Saturday, protesters gathered in the northwestern city of Peshawar to condemn the drone strikes and what they call the US violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Similar protests have been held across the country in the past months.
The rally comes days after United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned the non-UN-sanctioned US airstrikes killing Pakistani civilians.
Washington has been using its assassination drones in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia and claims that it is targeting terrorists, but civilians have been killed in the attacks.
Figures show that the American drone strikes have killed at least 212 people in Pakistan and Yemen in the month of May.
The aerial attacks were initiated by former US President George W. Bush but have been escalated under President Barack Obama.
Also, the CIA just received approval to continue drone strikes in Pakistan.
“Militants”: Media Propaganda
To avoid counting civilian deaths, Obama re-defines “militant” to mean “all military-age males in a strike zone”
Virtually every time the U.S. fires a missile from a drone and ends the lives of Muslims, American media outlets dutifully trumpet in headlines that the dead were ”militants” – even though those media outlets literally do not have the slightest idea of who was actually killed. They simply cite always-unnamed “officials” claiming that the dead were “militants.” It’s the most obvious and inexcusable form of rank propaganda: media outlets continuously propagating a vital claim without having the slightest idea if it’s true.
This practice continues even though key Obama officials have been caught lying, a term used advisedly, about how many civilians they’re killing. I’ve written and said many times before that in American media discourse, the definition of “militant” is any human being whose life is extinguished when an American missile or bomb detonates (that term was even used when Anwar Awlaki’s 16-year-old American son, Abdulrahman, was killed by a U.S. drone in Yemen two weeks after a drone killed his father, even though nobody claims the teenager was anything but completely innocent: “Another U.S. Drone Strike Kills Militants in Yemen”).