Published On: Fri, Jan 25th, 2013

UN begins investigation into the legality of Obama’s drone policy

An inquiry into the legalities of President Obama’s main tool against the “global war on terror” was launched yesterday by the U.N.’s special rapporteur for human rights and counterterrorism, according to UN news release Thursday.

Drone MQ-9 Reaper de l'US Air Force a l'atterrissage Photo/Air Force

Drone MQ-9 Reaper de l’US Air Force a l’atterrissage Photo/Air Force

The investigation, led by British lawyer Ben Emmerson, will focus on most of the places that the U.S.’s armed drones and elite special-operations forces operate: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

The inquiry was opened after several States, including Pakistan, made a joint statement asking Emmerson to carry out an investigation, within the framework of this mandate, into the use of drones in the context of counterterrorism operations.

Emmerson said  Thursday in the release:

The Inquiry that I am launching today is a direct response to the requests made to me by States at the Human Rights Council last June, as well as to the increasing international concern surrounding the issue of remote targeted killing through the use of UAVs. The exponential rise in the use of drone technology in a variety of military and non-military contexts represents a real challenge to the framework of established international law and it is both right as a matter of principle, and inevitable as a matter of political reality, that the international community should now be focusing attention on the standards applicable to this technological development, particularly its deployment in counterterrorism and counter-insurgency initiatives, and attempt to reach a consensus on the legality of its use, and the standards and safeguards which should apply to it.

According to a Wired report yesterday, Drone critics are cheering the inquiry, which follows years of international-law experts warning the U.S. was dancing on the precipice of lawlessness. “Virtually no other country agrees with the U.S.’s claimed authority to secretly declare people enemies of the state and kill them and civilian bystanders far from any recognized battlefield,” said Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union. “To date, there has been an abysmal lack of transparency and no accountability for the U.S. government’s ever-expanding targeted killing program.”

Former director of national intelligence under President Barack Obama, Dennis Blair piggybacked on the ACLU statement saying that there has been too little debate on the tactic. “The United States is a democracy, we want our people to know how we use military force and that we use it in ways the United States is proud of.”

Drone strikes have been on the rise under Obama. According to the Long War Journal, which tracks such attacks, there were 35 strikes in Pakistan during 2008, the last year President George W. Bush was in office. That number grew to 117 in 2010, then fell to 64 in 2011 and 46 last year, according to the NY Daily News.

More about the Special Rapporteur


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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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