A U.N. investigator wants some answers regarding President Barack Obama’s penchant for carrying out targeted drone attacks overseas that routinely result in civilian casualties.
The United States uses military drones to carry out attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia. In a 28-page report addressed to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Christof Heyns, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said that Washington must clarify the legal basis for the policy of killing suspected al-Qaida and Taliban leaders and associates rather than trying to capture them.
“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,” the report says.
Details about the effectiveness of and collateral damage that comes with the United States’ continual use of drone strikes are sketchy by most accounts. In his report, Heyns cites figures from the Pakistan Human Rights Commission that claim American drone strikes killed at least 957 people in Pakistan in 2010 alone. The report also states that since 2004, roughly 20 percent of the thousands of people killed by drones overseas have been civilians.
Heyns says that international humanitarian law mandates that every effort be made to arrest a suspect and any use of force “comply with the principles of necessity and proportionality.” Washington, he says, has failed to respond satisfactorily to concerns voiced by others, including his predecessor, that have raised questions about U.S. drone policy.
“The Special Rapporteur again requests the Government to clarify the rules that it considers to cover targeted killings … [and] reiterates his predecessor’s recommendation that the government specify the bases for decisions to kill rather than capture ‘human targets’ and whether the State in which the killing takes places has given consent,” Heyns said.
The report, according to Reuters, was issued overnight Monday to the United Nations Human Rights Council. The 47-member Geneva forum was to discuss the matter on Tuesday.
The call for an evaluation of whether the United States is in violation of international law with its drone attacks comes on the heels of heavy news coverage in the Nation concerning President Barack Obama’s hawkish use of military drones. The New York Times recently pointed out that the Obama Administration routinely pads the numbers of possible civilian casualties associated with the strikes by describing “all military-age males in a strike zone” as combatants.