Pakistan Will Refer Drone Strikes to UN Special Rapporteur?

by Julian Ku

It is hard to know how seriously to take this report, or even if it is accurate. But if it is accurate, this could be trouble for the U.S. drone strike program in Pakistan.

ISLAMABAD: Human Rights Ministry (HRM) has decided to take up matter of drone attacks with United Nations under international humanitarian law and file an official complain to Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Addressing a media briefing on Monday, Adviser to Prime Minister Mustafa Nawaz Khokar said the matter would be discussed with all stakeholders of the government after taking them on board an official complain will be lodged.

He categorically made it clear that drone strikes are not acceptable. He said so far the debate has only circled around loss of collateral damages and not about the specific legislation of the strikes in the light of international humanitarian law (law of war).

This is somewhat at odds with John Brennan’s assurance this past weekend, that our allies are increasingly on board with drone strikes.  But then again, Pakistan’s government is not exactly the most unified entity, and it is entirely possible that part of the government is seeking to expose drone strikes to international scrutiny and another part is encouraging them.  But given the gradual pushback from folks like Alston, I am not sure that the complicated and sophisticated legal approach outlined by Brennan is going to make a difference among overseas critics.

3 Responses

  1. As far as I know, the US position is that the special rapporteur exceeds its mandate in taking up drone strikes in the course of what the US views as armed conflict.  If that position changed under the Obama administration, I would be interested to know, but I had not heard that it had.  Perhaps someone in State could say, but my understanding was that the official US government position was that this did not fall within the special rapporteur’s mandate.

  2. It certainly could be possible that part of the government of Pakistan is at odds with another part. Another possibility is that the Pakistani government is simply trying to score points domestically by accusing the U.S. of human rights abuses, even though they may also be assisting the U.S. in carrying out these actions.

    That being said, it’s unclear how such a complaint would be any worse than previous efforts by the UN’s human rights mandate holders to scrutinize the US’s drone program. In the end, the worst we can expect is a harshly written report or statement by the Special Rapporteur. But haven’t we seen that before?

  3. Response…
     Instead of claiming no jurisdiction (and suffering foreign policy defeats), the U.S. should agree that human rights law applies during war BUT, on the merits, those who would be protected under, for example, the ICCPR must be within the “effective control” of the U.S. or its personnel and that those targeted by drones are not.  Further, on the merits, they are not targeted arbitrarily and the human right to life is a right to freedom from “arbitrary” deprivation.

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