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Sebastian Abbott | The Huffington Post

US Predator droneISLAMABAD — The head of a U.N. team investigating casualties from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan declared after a secret research trip to the country that the attacks violate Pakistan’s sovereignty.

Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, said the Pakistani government made clear to him that it does not consent to the strikes – a position that has been disputed by U.S. officials.

President Barack Obama has stepped up covert CIA drone strikes targeting al-Qaida and Taliban militants in Pakistan’s tribal region along the Afghan border since he took office in 2009.

The strikes have caused growing controversy because of the secrecy surrounding them and claims that they have caused significant civilian casualties – allegations denied by the United States.

According to a U.N. statement that Emmerson emailed to The Associated Press on Friday, the Pakistani government told him it has confirmed at least 400 civilian deaths by U.S. drones on its territory. The statement was initially released on Thursday, following the investigator’s three-day visit to Pakistan, which ended Wednesday. The visit was kept secret until Emmerson left.

Imtiaz Gul, an expert on Pakistani militancy who is helping Emmerson’s team, said Friday that the organization he runs, the Centre for Research and Security Studies, gave the U.N. investigator during his visit case studies on 25 strikes that allegedly killed around 200 civilians. Read More

Owen Bowcott | The Guardian

Strikes will be studied to assess extent of any civilian casualties, identity of militants targeted and legality of actions.

Strikes will be studied to assess extent of any civilian casualties, identity of militants targeted and legality of actions.

A United Nations investigation into targeted killings will examine drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, according to the British lawyer heading the inquiry.

Ben Emmerson QC, a UN special rapporteur, will reveal the full scope of his review which will include checks on military use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in UK operations in Afghanistan, US strikes in Pakistan, as well as in the Sahel region of Africa where the conflict in Mali has erupted. It will also take evidence on Israeli drone attacks in Palestinian territories.

About 20 or 30 strikes – selected as representative of different types of attacks – will be studied to assess the extent of any civilian casualties, the identity of militants targeted and the legality of strikes in countries where the UN has not formally recognised there is a conflict.

The inquiry will report to the UN general assembly in New York this autumn. Depending on its findings, it may recommend further action. Emmerson has previously suggested some drone attacks – particularly those known as “double tap” strikes where rescuers going to the aid of a first blast have become victims of a follow-up strike – could possibly constitute a “war crime”. Read More

Owen Bowcott | The Guardian

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 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 – where those helping victims of earlier attacks or attending funerals were killed – may amount to war crimes, Emmerson warned.

In his Harvard speech, he revealed: “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.”

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Patrick Dehahn | Middle East Voices

For many Americans, the use of armed drones is a necessity of our times.  According to survey data, most see them as an integral part of the war on terror  launched more than a decade ago in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks  on the United States. On a global scale, however, Americans supportive of armed  drone use, represent a minority viewpoint that is being increasingly challenged  by those questioning both the ethics and the legality behind the use of such  aircraft.

Officially defined as unmanned  aerial vehicles(UAVs), drones have many applications, including civilian,  but are today primarily associated with their military purpose of targeting and  killing those whom the U.S. government defines as terrorists or their supporters  in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Armed drones were  also in use in Iraq, but after American troops withdrew from the country late  last year, the U.S. has reportedly limited the application of drones there to  surveillance activities.

Unmanned aerial vehicle technology has been in the works for decades  but became more refined in the 1990s. The first use of a drone in a targeted  killing was recorded in Afghanistan in 2002.

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