UN official to probe drone strikes that kill civilians

 

New York

An independent UN human rights researcher on Thursday announced plans to launch an investigation into the use of drone attacks and other targeted assassinations by the United States and other governments that result in civilian deaths or injuries.

Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, said in a Harvard University law school speech that he and South African Christof Heyns, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, will establish an investigative unit early next year in Geneva to probe drone attacks.

Emmerson said that his decision to investigate drone attacks and other targeted killings reflects frustration with the Obama administration's unwillingness to provide public information on such covert strikes. "The Obama administration continues to formally adopt the position that it will neither confirm nor deny the existence of the drone program. . . . In reality, the administration is holding its finger in the dam of public accountability," he said according to a prepared copy of the speech.

"I will be launching an investigation unit within the special procedures of the [U.N.] Human Rights Council to inquire into individual drone attacks, and other forms of targeted killings conducted in counterterrorism operations, in which it has been alleged that civilian casualties have been inflicted," he added.

He also waded into the White House election, noting that both President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, appear to be in agreement on the covert use of drones. He expressed surprise that the issue of accountability for torture or other abuses of detainees has not featured in the presidential campaign and "got no mention at all" in Monday night's foreign policy debate.

But he noted that the two candidates diverge on the legality of the use of harsh interrogation methods, including waterboarding, which Obama says constitutes torture, but Romney says does not.

"If Governor Romney and his advisers believe that waterboarding is not torture, then they are quite simply wrong," Emmerson said in the prepared statement. "The rest of the world is quite clear on this, and some countries are, as we speak, going after those responsible."

The U.S. mission to the United Nations declined to comment on his remarks, saying the U.S. position has been outlined by White House adviser on counterterrorism John Brennan and other senior U.S. officials. In May, Brennan defended the U.S. program as "ethical and just," saying that the targeted nature of the strikes was more humane than traditional military strikes, lessening the prospects that civilians are killed.

Because Emmerson is an independent U.N. rights expert, his views do not represent the views of the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon or those of its high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay. But his affiliation with the United Nations is likely to carry greater political weight than those of most outside observers.

Emmerson presented a broad critique of the U.S.-led war on terrorism under the George W. Bush administration in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, denouncing the controversial practices of rendition of waterboarding and "a tidal wave of panic legislation across the globe which has caused incalculable and lasting damage to the architecture of international human rights law."

He said that although Obama had initially retreated from Bush's "global war paradigm" — which viewed the struggle against terrorism as a permanent war — he said a similar mindset has "reared its head" in the past 18 months. He cited figures compiled by the London Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which alleged that at least 474 civilians have been killed in Pakistan alone and that at least 50 civilians have died in follow-up strikes, in which civilians who came to the aid of victims of previous strikes were killed.

He said that the primary responsibility for monitoring targeted killings rests with the states that order such operations and that they are obligated to establish an "independent investigative" body to assess their legality.

- - -

Julie Tate contributed to this report.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Assessor

£26000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: SAP Assessor Job T...

Year 6 Teacher needed for 1 Term- Worthing!

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Year 6 larger then life teach...

SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: SEN Jobs Available Devon

Infrastructure Lead, (Trading, VCE, Converged, Hyper V)

£600 - £900 per day: Harrington Starr: Infrastructure Lead, (Trading infrastru...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering