26 October 2012
United Nations to begin investigating US drone strike targeted kills
Russia Today

http://rt.com/usa/news/us-drone-emmerson-un-256/



MQ-1 Predator

The White House defends the deaths of civilians they’ve caused with drone strikes overseas, but as the number of casualties created by the remote-control murder machines perpetually soar, the United Nations says they will soon start an investigation.

Ben Emmerson, the UN special rapporteur on counter-terror operations, told an audience at Harvard law school this week that a sub-section of the international organization will begin focusing next year on the Obama administration’s extrajudicial killings of suspected insurgents and the innocent civilians all too often executed in the process.

Speaking before a room of students Thursday afternoon in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Emmerson told the crowd that he will be launching “an investigation unit within the special procedures of the [UN] Human Rights Council to inquire into individual drone attacks."

According to Emmerson, the probe will be spearheaded by himself and Christof Heyns, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

The United Nations first called for an investigation into America’s ongoing unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, attacks earlier this summer, asking the US government to “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.” Months down the road, however, drone strikes remain a regular event in a broadening war overseas, and with it the tally of innocent persons that have perished as a result has only increased.

"If the relevant states are not willing to establish effective independent monitoring mechanisms … then it may in the last resort be necessary for the UN to act,” Emmerson told his audience this week.

In addition to focusing on drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan where America has focused their War on Terror for more than a decade after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Emmerson said he hopes to investigate "other forms of targeted killing conducted in counter-terrorism operations, in which it is alleged that civilian casualties have been inflicted.”

"The global war paradigm has done immense damage to a previously shared international consensus on the legal framework underlying both international human rights law and international humanitarian law," he said. "It has also given a spurious justification to a range of serious human rights and humanitarian law violations.

"The [global] war paradigm was always based on the flimsiest of reasoning, and was not supported even by close allies of the US,” The Guardian quotes Emmerson as tell the crowd. “The first-term Obama administration initially retreated from this approach, but over the past 18 months it has begun to rear its head once again, in briefings by administration officials seeking to provide a legal justification for the drone program of targeted killing in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.”

Emmerson’s statement comes only a day after the Washington Post began a three-part series analyzing Washington’s counterterrorism efforts, specifically the kill-list administered by US President Barack Obama that outlines who specifically is slated for extrajudicial execution. On Wednesday, the Post revealed that the kill-list unearthed earlier this year is being updated to be included in a greater “disposition matrix” that helps the White House figure out how to carry clandestine strikes on insurgence and when and where they may require the help from outside agencies from allied nations.

In an interview the paper published Thursday morning with counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, the Obama-appointee is quoted as saying that the disposition matrix will ideally help America bring justice to its enemies, “irrespective of the venue.” Emmerson says he intends for his panel to pry into any killings that Washington cannot consider linked to their operation against al-Qaeda, the group that’s been blamed for the 9/11 assaults.

Emmerson said Thursday it’s believed that, “since President Obama took office, at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners.” His colleague Heyns, Emmerson said, considered these strikes “war crimes,” an opinion he would also endorse.

When Britain’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism conducted an analysis of US drone strikes last year, they determined that they have killed nearly 400 civilians in Pakistan alone. Last month a study out of Stanford and New York University said, “US targeted killings and drone strike practices undermine respect for the rule of law and international legal protections and may set dangerous precedents,” and the CIA has since been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for failing to be forthright about the use of drones in aerial assaults.


25 October 2012
UN to investigate civilian deaths from US drone strikes
By Owen Bowcott
The Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/25/un-inquiry-us-drone-strikes



Ben Emmerson QC called for effective investigations into US drone attacks. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

The United Nations is to set up a dedicated investigations unit in Geneva early next year to examine the legality of drone attacks in cases where civilians are killed in so-called "targeted" counter-terrorism operations.

The announcement was made by Ben Emmerson QC, a UN special rapporteur, in a speech to Harvard law school in which he condemned secret rendition and waterboarding as crimes under international law. His forthright comments, directed at both US presidential candidates, will be seen as an explicit challenge to the prevailing US ideology of the global war on terror.

Earlier this summer, Emmerson, who monitors counter-terrorism for the UN, called for effective investigations into drone attacks. Some US drone strikes in Pakistan may amount to war crimes, Emmerson warned.

In his Harvard speech, he said: "If the relevant states are not willing to establish effective independent monitoring mechanisms … then it may in the last resort be necessary for the UN to act.

"Together with my colleague Christof Heyns, [the UN special rapporteur on extra-judicial killings], I will be launching an investigation unit within the special procedures of the [UN] Human Rights Council to inquire into individual drone attacks."

The investigation unit will also look at "other forms of targeted killing conducted in counter-terrorism operations, in which it is alleged that civilian casualties have been inflicted". Emmerson maintained that the US stance that it can conduct counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaida or other groups anywhere in the world because it is deemed to be an international conflict was indefensible.

"The global war paradigm has done immense damage to a previously shared international consensus on the legal framework underlying both international human rights law and international humanitarian law," he said. "It has also given a spurious justification to a range of serious human rights and humanitarian law violations.

"The [global] war paradigm was always based on the flimsiest of reasoning, and was not supported even by close allies of the US. The first-term Obama administration initially retreated from this approach, but over the past 18 months it has begun to rear its head once again, in briefings by administration officials seeking to provide a legal justification for the drone programme of targeted killing in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia …

"[It is] alleged that since President Obama took office at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. Christof Heyns … has described such attacks, if they prove to have happened, as war crimes. I would endorse that view."

Emmerson singled out both President Obama and the Republican challenger Mitt Romney for criticism. "It is perhaps surprising that the position of the two candidates on this issue has not even featured during their presidential elections campaigns, and got no mention at all in Monday night's foreign policy debate.

"We now know that the two candidates are in agreement on the use of drones. But the issue of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques is an one which, according to the record, continues to divide them.

"I should make it absolutely clear that my mandate does not see to eye to eye with the Obama administration on a range of issues – not least the lack of transparency over the drone programme. But on this issue the president has been clear since he took office that water-boarding is torture that it is contrary to American values and that it would stop.

"... But Governor Romney has said that he does not believe that waterboarding is torture. He has said that he would allow enhanced interrogation techniques that go beyond those now permitted by the army field manual, and his security advisers have recommended that he rescind the existing restrictions."

The Cambodian dictator Pol Pot, he pointed out, used the technique. "Anyone who is in doubt about whether waterboarding is torture should visit Tuol Sleng, the infamous S-21 detention facility operated by the Khymer Rouge in Phnom Penh.

"Over a period of four years 14,000 people were systematically tortured and killed there. It is now a genocide museum. And right there, in the middle of the central torturing room, is the apparatus used by Pol Pot's security officials for waterboarding."
 


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