In anticipation of a vigorous debate on targeted assassinations, at the United Nations General Assembly next week, two UN Special Rapporteurs issued scathing reports on drone strikes on Thursday and warned that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s involvement might structurally damage international security over longer term.
One report, by the UN's Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, urged Washington to “declassify information about operations co-ordinated by the CIA and clarify its position on the legality of unmanned aerial attacks.”
Underscoring the extent of civilian casualty wreaked by drone attacks carried out on Pakistani soil Mr. Emmerson said that statistics collected by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad recorded at least 330 remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) since 2004, and that there have been at least 2,200 deaths and 600 serious injuries caused by these attacks.
Mr. Emmerson’s report also noted that there was “strong evidence” to suggest that between June 2004 and June 2008 RPA attacks in FATA were conducted with the “active consent and approval of senior members of the Pakistani military and intelligence service, and with at least the acquiescence and, in some instances, the active approval of senior government figures.”
The Special Rapporteur’s report in this context referenced the 2012 guidelines adopted in Pakistan’s parliament regarding revised terms of engagement with the U.S., which called in particular for an “immediate cessation of drone attacks inside the territorial borders of Pakistan” and forbade any government authority into entering agreements with foreign governments to provide authorisation for future attacks.
The second UN report, authored by Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns did not allude directly to the U.S. but cautioned that targeted killings via drones constituted a “global policing function” that however endangered lives without supplying other tools of domestic policing, such as capture or legal remedy.
With a third report, this one by Amnesty International, due to be released early next week outlining the impact of drone attacks on civilian lives and its human rights implications, the heat from this debate is likely to be felt when Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif meets U.S. President Barack Obama in New York on October 23.
Pakistan has already raised the drone strikes issue at the UN and it is reported to be on the discussion agenda when the two leaders meet.