Friday, June 14, 2024

UN members slam US drone policy

Washington defends drones, says strikes ‘necessary and just’
The Guardian Online
The US government has defended its use of drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries in front of the UN, telling a chamber full of largely critical nations that in President Obama’s view the deployment of unmanned aerial attacks against al-Qaeda targets was “necessary, legal and just”. Representatives from a slew of nations, including Brazil, China and Venezuela, lined up to berate the Obama administration for its intensive use of drone strikes.
But the US delegation told a plenary meeting of the general assembly in the UN building in New York the president had taken steps to introduce new guidance and standards, and to set out the legal rationale for unmanned weapons deployed in the fight against al-Qaeda and affiliated threats.
The UN debate marked the first time that member nations have come together to discuss the rapidly expanding militarised use of remotely piloted aircraft and the fraught international legal issues that it raises.
It came at the climax of 10 days in which the question of the legality of drones has caught the headlines, with the release of two UN reports that have sharply condemned aspects of the programmes.
The United States said the US government was giving “close attention” to a report by UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson, a specialist on protecting rights in counter-terrorism.
At the meeting, Emmerson urged the United States and other countries using drones to release information on the justification for their use and “data on the level of civilian casualties inflicted through the use of drones.”
Emmerson said in his written report that Pakistan had told him that 400 of the 2,200 victims of drone attacks over the past decade were civilians.
He also underlined the state of chaos that exists in international law over drones: “Despite the proliferation of this technology, there remains a lack of consensus among international lawyers and between states on the core legal principles.”
He added: “It’s not the drone that is the problem. The problem is the lack of clarity under which it is lawful to deploy lethal force by drone.”
Christof Heyns, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial and arbitrary killings, said drones are not “inherently illegal weapons”.
But he added that there had to be greater focus on drones because of the spread of their use.
“A world where multiple states use such weapons in secrecy is a less secure world,” Heyns told the meeting.
But several countries questioned the legality of the weapons. Venezuela called drones “flagrantly illegal” and said that by its accounting, 1,800 people had been casualties – only about 10% of whom were “targeted individuals”. “This is like a collective punishment,” Venezuela’s representative said.
Brazil wondered where the line would be drawn in terms of potential targets for drone strikes. “In certain regions we might have sympathisers of terrorists – does that mean they become ‘fair game’ just because they sympathise with a particular cause, that they are legitimate targets of drone attacks, for yet another kill? This is uncharted waters.”
China, which normally keeps to the sidelines of the most contentious international disputes, was driven to state that drones were a “blank space in international law, and this blank space is subject to abuse … We should respect the principles of UN charters, the sovereignty of states and the legitimate rights of the citizens of all countries.”

Via: The Daily Star

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