UN rights expert to investigate drone strikes

UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism Ben Emmerson announced (PDF) on Jan. 24 that he will begin investigating the legality of the use of drone strikes. Emmerson said that after asking the US to allow an independent investigation of its use of targeted killings last year, there is still no consensus among the international community as to the legality of the conduct. He stated an investigation by the UN was necessary in order to establish clear international guidelines on the use of this and other emerging technology:

The exponential rise in the use of drone technology in a variety of military and non-military contexts represents a real challenge to the framework of established international law and it is both right as a matter of principle, and inevitable as a matter of political reality, that the international community should now be focussing attention on the standards applicable to this technological development, particularly its deployment in counterterrorism and counter-insurgency initiatives, and attempt to reach a consensus on the legality of its use, and the standards and safeguards which should apply to it.

The investigation will study the motivations of the nations using the drones as well as the effects felt in the nations where the attacks were carried out. Emmerson said he would present his findings to the General Assembly in fall of 2013.

From Jurist, Jan. 24. Used with permission.

Anti-drone protests in Yemen

At least three were killed in as many drone strikes in Yemen over the past week, on targets outside the capital, Sana. Protesters blocked roads into the capital in response, and set fire to a model of a drone missile.  (Long War Journal, Jan. 23; AP, Jan. 21; Press TV, Jan. 20)

The strikes also sparked rare vocal dissent from within the Yemeni regime. Yemen's human rights minister Hooria Mashhour told Reuters: "To have an innocent person fall, this is a major breac. I am in favor of changing the anti-terrorism strategy. I think there are more effective strategies.. We're committed to fighting terrorism but we're calling for changing the means and strategies. These means and strategies can be applied on the ground without harming civilians and without leading to human rights violations." (The Guardian, Jan. 22)

Pakistan drone strikes illegal: UN official

Following a three-day fact-finding visit to Pakistan, the UN terrorism and human rights envoy issued a statement calling the US drone strikes in Pakistan a violation of international law. "The position of the government of Pakistan is quite clear: It does not consent to the use of drones by the United States on its territory and it considers this to be a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity," said Ben Emmerson, UN special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights. (ABC, March 15)