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U.N. Special Rapporteur to Investigate Drone Attacks



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Yesterday in a speech at Harvard, the U.N.’s special rapporteur for counterterrorism and human rights announced that he would be selectively investigating some drone attacks by the U.S., and threatened the possibility of much more scrutiny. The key bits, via Foreign Policy’s Colum Lynch:

During the last session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in June many states, including Russia and China called for an investigation into the use of drone strikes as a means of targeted killing.   One of the States that made that call was Pakistan.  I was asked by these States to bring forward proposals on this issue, and I have been working closely on the subject of drones with Christof Heyns.  The issue is moving rapidly up the international agenda. . . .

If the relevant States are not willing to establish effective independent monitoring mechanisms that meet these international standards, then it may in the last resort be necessary for the UN to act, and to establish such mechanisms itself.  Steps are already in hand to set up the necessary modalities, and following discussions this week I can today announce that, together with my colleague Christof Heyns, I will be launching an investigation unit within the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council to inquire into individual drone attacks, and other forms of targeted killing conducted in counter-terrorism operations, in which it is alleged that civilian casualties have been inflicted, and to seek explanations from the States using this technology and the States on whose territory it is used.  This unit will begin its work early next year and will be based in Geneva.

The official, Ben Emmerson, left it unclear how the status of a Nobel Peace Prize winner is affected by being investigated by one of the U.N.’s chief human-rights enforcers.



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