With the drone war on the rise – both domestically and internationally – technological advancements leading the way for even more frequent use, the United Nations has announced that they are going to set up a Geneva-based unit dedicated to investigating drone strikes carried out by the United States.
Interestingly, it seems the UN is focusing solely on the U.S. while human rights lawyers have previously pointed out that British civilians participating in the drone program can actually be held partially responsible for the murders carried out under said program.
The announcement came from Ben Emmerson QC, a UN special rapporteur, in a speech to Harvard law school, according to the British Guardian.
In the speech Emmerson also reportedly called secret renditions and waterboarding crimes under international law, which they both quite clearly are.
The U.S. military and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have both been sued in the past over the drone assassination program, but as of yet nothing has come from it and it may be somewhat pessimistic but I don’t think the UN will be able to do much about it either.
Emmerson also called for investigations into US drone attacks earlier this summer, warning that some of the strikes in Pakistan may indeed be war crimes.
While I agree that they very well might be war crimes and the U.S. drone program is hardly acceptable in any way, the simple fact is that the UN cannot and should not be trusted. In order to realize this all one needs to do is observe the fact that the UN recently openly called for international internet surveillance.
“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,” said Emmerson.
“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,” Emmerson continued.
The UN’s investigation will also include a look at “other forms of targeted killing conducted in counter-terrorism operations, in which it is alleged that civilian casualties have been inflicted.”
Emmerson added that the position claiming that the U.S. has a right to conduct international warfare in the name of fighting al Qaeda or other related groups is, in fact, indefensible.
This is quite interesting indeed since that position justifying international war is the entire basis of the so-called global war on terror.
“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,” said Emmerson. “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 U.S.,” continued Emmerson. “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.”
“[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,” said Emmerson.
“Christof Heyns … has described such attacks, if they prove to have happened, as war crimes. I would endorse that view,” he added.
Emmerson also slammed both President Barack Obama and the Republican candidate Mitt Romney, focusing on their constant avoidance of the drone issue.
“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,” said Emmerson.
Surprising? Not quite. For anyone who has been following the drone war and the defense it enjoys in Washington and elsewhere, this is hardly surprising.
“We now know that the two candidates are in agreement on the use of drones,” said Emmerson. “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 program,” said Emmerson. “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.”
While Obama indeed publicly called waterboarding torture and claimed it would no longer be used, his true stance is revealed by the fact that he refused to go after the individuals who actually carried out the torture.
This is fascinating since he has no problem with going after CIA employees who blow the whistle on similarly objectionable practices.
Personally, I’m not going to hold my breath in hopes of some magical UN action that will stop the widespread and expanding use of drones both domestically and internationally. To do so would require a deep ignorance of history as well as a severe lack of common sense.
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