UN to probe legality of US drone strikes

UN to probe legality of US drone strikes

An independent U.N. human rights researcher has 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 counter-terrorism and human rights, told a Harvard Law School audience on Oct. 25 he would create a special investigative unit in Geneva early next year to examine the legality of U.S. drone attacks.

“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,” the Washington Post quoted him as saying.

Not representing UN views

The investigation will also look at “other forms of targeted killings conducted in counter-terrorism operations, in which it is alleged that civilian casualties have been inflicted,” Emmerson said in his speech. The investigation would also examine drone and other targeted assassinations by other governments that result in civilian deaths or injuries.
The U.S. mission to the United Nations declined to comment on Emmerson’s remarks, saying that the U.S. position had been outlined by White House counterterrorism advisor 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.
Emmerson’s 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.