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UN asks US to reveal civilian drone casualties

October 18, 2013 20:47 IST

A new United Nations report says drone strikes have killed far more civilians than American officials have publicly acknowledged -- at least 400 in Pakistan and as many as 58 in Yemen -- and the world body has asked the United States to aid its investigation by disclosing the correct figures.

UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson, who issued the "interim" report that will be debated at the UN General Assembly on October 25, said the US had created "an almost insurmountable obstacle to transparency".

"The Special Rapporteur does not accept that considerations of national security justify withholding statistical and basic methodological data of this kind," Emmerson said in the report. A government must undertake a fact-finding inquiry whenever "civilians have been, or appear to have been, killed" and publicly provide a "full explanation" subject to appropriate national security redactions, the report said.

Pakistan states it confirmed 400 civilians killed. The report also notes that there has been a "marked drop" in reported civilian casualties during 2012-2013.     There is "strong evidence" that during 2004-08, Pakistani intelligence and military officials consented to US strikes, and that senior government officials acquiesced and at times gave "active approval", the report said.

However, the report stated that only the democratically elected government of Pakistan can provide legal consent to US strikes, and only in accordance with consent procedures announced in a 2012 parliamentary resolution.

Any current cooperation at the military or intelligence level does not "affect the position in international law". On this basis, the report found that there is currently no legal consent, and thus that the continued US use of force in Pakistan violates the country's sovereignty.

The highest level of civilian casualties, Emmerson said, occurred when the Central Intelligence Agency ramped up drone strikes in Pakistan between 2008 and 2010. Since then, he said, drone strikes in Pakistan have steadily declined and "the number of civilian deaths has dropped dramatically".

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