Killer drones: UN to investigate US war crimes

Mick Meaney, |

The United Nations claims it will probe the legality of American killer drones in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.

A UN special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson, told a Harvard Law School audience he would create a special investigative unit in Geneva to examine the legality of U.S. drone attacks.

In his speech Emmerson 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.

“Other forms of targeted killing… 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.

“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 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. Christof Heyns … has described such attacks, if they prove to have happened, as war crimes. I would endorse that view.”

The unit will be created early next year.

So far, President Obama has issued almost 300 strikes in Pakistan, bringing the total number of strikes to 350, since 2004.

The  Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that at 474 — 885 civilians, including 176 children have been killed as a result, injuring a total of 1,248-1,397 people.

Of the 41-51 strikes in Yemen since 2002, 60-163 civilian have been killed, including 24-34 children.

Somalia which has been under attack since 2007 is the least effected, with 10-23 strikes killing 11-57 civilians and 1-3 children.

But let’s face it. For the United States to kill just 1 innocent civilian, is 1 too many.