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UN investigator warns US on use of drones

UN investigator warns US on use of drones

A U.N. human rights investigator warned the United States Tuesday that its use of unmanned warplanes to carry out targeted executions may violate international law.
Philip Alston said that unless the Obama administration explains the legal basis for targeting particular individuals and the measures it is taking to comply with international humanitarian law which prohibits arbitrary executions, "it will increasingly be perceived as carrying out indiscriminate killings in violation of international law."
Alston, the U.N. Human Rights Council's investigator on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, raised the issue of U.S. Predator drones in a report to the General Assembly's human rights committee and at a news conference afterwards, saying he has become increasingly concerned at the dramatic increase in their use, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan, since June.
He said the U.S. response _ that the Geneva-based council and the General Assembly have no role in relation to killings during an armed conflict _ "is simply untenable."
"That would remove the great majority of issues that come before these bodies right now," Alston said. "The onus is really on the government of the United States to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary executions, extrajudicial executions are not, in fact, being carried out through the use of these weapons."
Alston's warning comes as President Barack Obama is weighing how to overhaul the U.S. approach to the Afghan conflict.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, wants as many as 40,000 more troops while Vice President Joe Biden favors maintaining the current troop strength of around 68,000 and significantly increasing the use of unmanned drones and special forces for the kind of surgical anti-terror strikes that have been successful in Pakistan, Somalia and elsewhere.
Alston, a law professor at New York University, said that while there may be circumstances where the use of drones "to carry out targeted executions" is consistent with international law, this can only be determined in light of information on the legal basis for selecting certain individuals.
"What we need then is the U.S. to be more up front and say 'OK, we're prepared to discuss some aspects of this program,'" he said.
Alston said the U.S. should provide details on use of drones, disclose what precautions it takes to ensure the unmanned aircraft are used strictly for purposes consistent with international humanitarian law, and what measures exist to evaluate what happened when their weapons have been used.
"Otherwise, you have the really problematic bottom line -- which is that the Central Intelligence Agency is running a program which is killing significant numbers of people, and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of the relevant international laws," he said.
Alston also raised a number of other issues including the failure of 11 Human Rights Council members to allow him to visit to investigate "serious allegations of killings" in their countries.
He said this raised questions about the council's credibility and identified the countries as Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. He noted that Mexico said he could visit in 2011 _ after his mandate expires.
Earlier this month, Alston said, he completed a mission to Congo where he said he received "compelling evidence" that the Congolese army killed at least 50 people, and probably many more, and raped and abducted some 40 women in Shalio in North Kivu, in conflict-wracked eastern Congo, in late April. About two weeks later, he said, Hutu militiamen apparently retaliated, killing at least 96 civilians.
Alston noted that the Congolese army is supported by a U.N. peacekeeping force, and he complained that U.N. officials and the government were "permitting impunity" by failing to go after those responsible for Shalio and other killings.
As for Kenya, which he visited in February, Alston said he welcomes the International Criminal Court's investigation into the post-election violence in December 2007 and January 2008 that killed over 1,000 people because Parliament failed to take action.
He also accused the government of failing to investigate "police death squads" or those responsible for the killing "in cold blood" of two people he spoke to shortly after he left.
"Of course, the Kenyan police has not solved the case _ surprise, surprise _ when they are the main suspects," Alston said.


Updated : 2021-04-17 05:26 GMT+08:00