UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur's Report Calls for U.S. to Justify Obama's Drone Killings
June 20, 2012 • 8:13AM

The UN Special Rapporteur on Summary Executions has called on the U.S. to justify its well-known policy of drone assassinations, rather than capture of al Qaeda or Taliban suspects.

In a 28-page March 30, 2012 "Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions" on the United States, Special Rapporteur Christof Heyns reports that U.S. targeted killings by drones, first raised in 2008, have continued, and that only two of the Special Rapporteur's 25 recommendations on human rights were "partially implemented". Of the other 23 recommendations on Guantanamo, military contractors' actions, and the death penalty, 18 were not implemented, and no information was provided on 5.

On Obama's drone killings, Heyns found that the U.S.:

* "Has not implemented the UN's 2008 recommentation to "explicate the rules of international law it considers to cover targeted [drone] killings."

* "Has not implemented the UN's 2008 recommendation to make public the number of civilians collaterally killed as result of drone attacks, and the measures in place to prevent such casualities."

The report was issued June 18 to the UN Human Rights Council. South African jurist Heyns wrote, "The [U.S.] government should clarify the procedures in place to ensure that any targeted killing complies with international humanitarian law and human rights, and indicate the measures or strategies applied to prevent casualties, as well as the measures in place to provide prompt, thorough, effective and independent public investigation of alleged violations. Disclosure of these killings is critical to ensure accountability, justice, and reparation for victims or their families."

Citing figures from the Pakistan Human Rights Commission, Heyns said U.S. drone strikes killed at least 957 people in Pakistan in 2010 alone. Thousands have been killed in 300 drone strikes there since 2004, 20% of whom are believed to have been ordinary civilians.

"Although figures vary widely with regard to drone attack estimates, all studies concur on one important point: there has been a dramatic increase in their use over the past three years. While these attacks are directed at individuals believed to be leaders or active members of al Qaeda or the Taliban, in the context of armed conflict (e.g., Afghanistan), in other instances, civilians have allegedly also perished in the attacks in regions where it is unclear whether there was an armed conflict or not (e.g., Pakistan)," Heyns said. Human rights law requires that every effort be made to arrest a suspect, in line with the "principles of necessity and proportionality on the use of force." There had been no official or satisfactory response to demands issued by Heyns's predecessor, Australian expert Philip Alston, Heyns detailed in the current report.

"The Special Rapporteur again requests the government to clarify the rules that it considers to cover targeted killings... [and] reiterates his predecessor's recommendation that the government specify the bases for decisions to kill rather than capture 'human targets,' and whether the state in which the killing takes place has given consent."

Pakistani Ambassador Zamir Akram took the floor in yesterday's opening session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva to say that his country consistently maintained that the use of drones was illegal and violated the sovereignty of Pakistan: "Thousands of innocent people, including women and children, have been murdered in these indiscriminate attacks."

A new book exposes Obama's murderous drone killing: "Kill or Capture" by Newsweek reporter Daniel Klaidman. Klaidman reports that the President's focus on Awlaki was so intense, one of his briefers, Gen. James Cartwright, thought that "Obama's rhetoric was starting to sound like George W. Bush's, whom he had briefed on many occasions. 'Do you have everything you need to get this guy?' Obama would ask."

"What is clear is that the president found Awlaki's American citizenship, in Klaidman's words, 'immaterial.'"