2,200 deaths from 330 strikes since 2004

After extensive discussions with officials in Pakistan, a U.N. special envoy has concluded that the U.S.’ drone strikes in the country’s tribal belt constitute a violation of sovereignty.

Though Pakistan has repeatedly denounced these strikes and linked them to rampant anti-U.S. sentiment, some sources, including leaked U.S. State Department cables, have suggested that Pakistani leaders may be tacitly permitting Washington to go after al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects in the border region.However, ambiguity on Pakistani sentiment surrounding U.S. drones appeared to diminish this week when Ben Emmerson, a British lawyer and U.N. Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, said: “The position of the government of Pakistan is quite clear. It does not consent to the use of drones by the United States on its territory and it considers this to be a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.”

Citing specific remarks he heard in Pakistan, Mr. Emmerson’s statement noted that Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry had confirmed “that since mid-2010 [and to date] it has regularly sent notes verbale to the U.S. embassy in Islamabad protesting the use of drones on the territory of Pakistan... requiring the U.S. to cease these strikes immediately.”

High civilian casualties

Mr. Emmerson was said to be investigating whether drone attacks caused disproportionate civilian casualties and in his statement he also argued that “Adult males carrying out ordinary daily tasks were frequently the victims of such strikes.”

Officials reportedly told him that there had been a minimum of 330 drone strikes on Pakistani soil since 2004 and that “Islamabad’s records showed that about 2,200 deaths had been caused by drone strikes and a further 600 people had suffered serious injuries”.

Singling out the U.S. for its drone campaign, Mr. Emmerson said he was not aware of “any state in the world that currently shares the U.S.’ expansive legal perspective that it is engaged in a global war — that is to say a non-international armed conflict with al-Qaeda... that would therefore lawfully entitle the U.S. to take action involving targeted killing wherever an individual is found. Mr. Emmerson’s findings received a nod on social media with Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S., Sherry Rehman, tweeting, “Indeed it does,” in response to Mr. Emmerson’s claim that U.S. drones violated Pakistan’s sovereignty. The U.N. report is significant particularly as it comes in the wake of the Obama administration appointing drone enthusiast John Brennan as the head of the CIA.