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Evidence suggests Pak gave approval to drone strikes: UN report

By Yoshita Singh
October 25, 2013 12:24 IST
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There is “strong evidence” that top members of Pakistan's military, government and intelligence service gave their "active consent and approval" to CIA drone strikes in the country's lawless tribal areas between June 2004 and June 2008, according to a UN report.

The report by the Special Rapporteur on the 'Promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism' Ben Emmerson will be submitted to the UN General Assembly on Friday and is an interim report on the use of remotely piloted aircraft in counter-terrorism operations.

The report comes as Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met President Barack Obama in Washington this week and urged him to "end" such strikes on Pakistani soil.

In the 24-page UN report, Emmerson said, "as regards Pakistan, there is strong evidence to suggest that between June 2004 and June 2008 remotely piloted aircraft strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas were conducted with the active consent and approval of senior members of the Pakistani military and intelligence service, and with at least the acquiescence and, in some instances, the active approval of senior government figures."

According to statistics given to Emmerson by Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in March this year, there have been at least 330 drone strikes in the FATA areas since 2004 which resulted in about 2,200 deaths and 600 injuries.

Of these, at least 400 civilians had been killed in the drone strikes and a further 200 individuals were regarded as "probable non-combatants," figures that are "likely to be an underestimate."

The UN report adds that continued use of drones amounts to a "violation" of Pakistani sovereignty, "unless justified under the international law principle of self-defence."

The report has identified 33 sample remotely piloted aircraft strikes that appear to have resulted in civilian casualties.

"While the fact that civilians have been killed or injured does not necessarily point to a violation of international humanitarian law, it undoubtedly raises issues of accountability and transparency," it added.

The US maintains that the drone strikes are targeted at specific terrorists. However, the Pakistan government claims that most of the victims of drone hits are civilians.

On the US drone programme, the UN report said the involvement of CIA in lethal counter-terrorism operations in Pakistan and Yemen has created an "almost insurmountable obstacle to transparency."

"Self-defence is the central justification advanced by the Government of the United States for the extraterritorial use of deadly force in counter-terrorism operations."

The report said that if used in strict compliance with the principles of international humanitarian law, drones are capable of reducing the risk of civilian casualties in armed conflict by significantly improving the situational awareness of military commanders.

In regard to the duty of states to protect civilians in armed conflict, the Special Rapporteur said in cases where civilians have been killed by such strikes, the State responsible is obligated to conduct a "prompt, independent and impartial" fact-finding inquiry and to provide a detailed public explanation.

The Special Rapporteur urged the United States to clarify its position on the legal and factual issues related to drone strikes and to declassify "to the maximum extent possible" information relevant to its "lethal extraterritorial counter-terrorism operations."

It also asked the US to release its own data on the level of civilian casualties inflicted in the drone strikes.

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Yoshita Singh in United Nations
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