United Nations to examine drone strikes by UK, US

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 24, 2013 11:01 hrs

A United Nations investigation into targeted killings will examine drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, according to a 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, reports the Guardian.

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.

The inquiry, which will be co-ordinated through Emmerson's UN office in Geneva, is the result of a request by several nations, including Pakistan and two permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The Ministry of Defence, Emmerson said, had assured him of its willingness to co-operate.

Despite many US officials justifying drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia as acceptable as part of the global war on terrorism, others in the Washington administration have more recently acknowledged a need to demonstrate legal justification for targeted killings to the international community.

Emmerson said that one of the fundamental questions is whether aerial targeting using drones is an appropriate method of conflict. He added that one of the questions that will be looked at is whether, given the local demography, aerial attacks carry too high a risk of a disproportionate number of civilian casualties.

According to research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, between June 2004 and September 2012, drone strikes killed between 2,562 and 3,325 people in Pakistan. (ANI)

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