Drones: Latest reports to UN and US double standards on human rights

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Protesting drones (Pakistan) and Ben Emmerson (UN)

Ben Emmerson QC has submitted his “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism” to the General Assembly of the United Nations. This is an interim report, and the third on the use of remotely piloted aircraft in counter-terrorism operations. A final report will be submitted to the Human Rights Council in 2014.

These are the conclusions and recommendations:-

If used in strict compliance with the principles of international
humanitarian law, remotely piloted aircraft are capable of reducing the risk of
civilian casualties in armed conflict by significantly improving the situational awareness of military commanders.

Having regard to the duty of States to protect civilians in armed conflict,
the Special Rapporteur considers that, in any case in which civilians have been,
or appear to have been, killed, the State responsible is under an obligation to
conduct a prompt, independent and impartial fact-finding inquiry and to
provide a detailed public explanation. This obligation is triggered whenever
there is a plausible indication from any source that civilian casualties may have
been sustained, including where the facts are unclear or the information is
partial or circumstantial. The obligation arises whether the attack was initiated
by remotely piloted aircraft or other means, and whether it occurred within or outside an area of active hostilities.

The Special Rapporteur identifies herein a number of legal questions on
which there is currently no clear international consensus. He considers that
there is an urgent and imperative need to seek agreement between States on
these issues. To that end he is currently consulting Member States with a view
to clarifying their position on these questions. He urges all States to respond as comprehensively as possible.

In particular, the Special Rapporteur urges the United States to further
clarify its position on the legal and factual issues raised herein; to declassify, to
the maximum extent possible, information relevant to its lethal extraterritorial
counter-terrorism operations; and to release its own data on the level of civilian
casualties inflicted through the use of remotely piloted aircraft, together with information on the evaluation methodology used.

The full report can be read here… http://justsecurity.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/2013EmmersonSpecialRapporteurReportDrones.pdf

Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) have stated they will ceasefire if drones strikes stop. I have yet to receive a response to my letter to Ben Emmerson calling for UN intervention to halt US targeted killing programme (which has taken the lives of many civilians) so that dialogue for peace in Pakistan can finally begin  https://activist1.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/pakistan-drones-must-stop-for-dialogue-to-start-letter-to-un-rapporteur-investigating-drones

Another report has been compiled by Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings who calls for greater transparency over armed drones.

 heyns   Kareem_Khan_with_son_picture

Christof Heyns (UN) and Karim Khan, relative of Pakistani drone victims

Statements from from this report reveal the following:-

Legal and political accountability are dependent on public access to the
relevant information.92 Only on the basis of such information can effective
oversight and enforcement take place. The first step towards securing human rights in this context is transparency about the use of drones.

A lack of appropriate transparency and accountability concerning the
deployment of drones undermines the rule of law and may threaten international
security. Accountability for violations of international human rights law (or
international humanitarian law) is not a matter of choice or policy; it is a duty under domestic and international law.

The various components of transparency require that the criteria for
targeting and the authority that approves killings be known and that drone
operations be placed in institutions that are able to disclose to the public the
methods and findings of their intelligence, criteria used in selection of targets and precautions incorporated in such criteria.

One of the criticisms levelled against the current drone programmes has been
the absence of an official record regarding the persons killed. States must also give
guarantees of non-repetition and give effect to the right to reparations of victims of drone strikes.

Drone victims, just as any other human rights victims, and society at large
have a right to have access to information relating to allegations of human rights
violations and their investigation.96 The Human Rights Council has emphasized the
need under international human rights law for transparency, highlighting victims’
right to know the truth about the perpetrators, their accomplices and their motives
there.97 Likewise, during an armed conflict, relatives of persons killed or missing have the right to know the fate of their relatives.

The report has been submitted to the UN General Assembly, there will be a debate on this issue on October 25.

The full report  can be viewed on the following link.. http://justsecurity.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/UN-Special-Rapporteur-Extrajudicial-Christof-Heyns-Report-Drones.pdf?utm_source=Press+mailing+list&utm_campaign=6de0426c90-2013_10_17_Heyns_drones_report_UN

Amnesty International have also announced that they will launch their report on US drone strikes in Pakistan On Tuesday 22 October .

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Lawyer for drone victims Shahzad Akbar and Malala Yousafzai with Obama

I note once again western hypocrisies. America, which prides itself on upholding human rights and freedom of speech did not see fit to open its doors to Shahzad Akbar, human rights lawyer for drone victims in Pakistan. America had no such problem with schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai who received an invitation to the White House however she is not litigating on drones. She did make comment to President Obama but was echoing what has been said by campaigners for years, that drones kill civilians, lead to radicalization, must stop and there is unlikely to be a ceasefire in Pakistan while they continue.

Madiha Tahir, independent journalist addressed a conference where Akbar was due to give a presentation stating:-

He (Shahzad Akbar) was denied a visa and unable to attend  He was scheduled to take part in “Life Under Drones,” a Friday panel discussion at the Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference at New York University. “The United States government will not allow him to speak to you” 


Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad.  She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”.

About Carol Anne Grayson

Blogging for Humanity.... Campaigner/researcher global health/human rights/drones/WOT/insurgency http://www.esrc.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/PO/experts/Health_and_Wellbeing.aspx Exec Producer of Oscar nominated documentary Incident in New Baghdad, currently filming on drones.
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