HR body condemns arbitrary killings by drones in Pakistan
GENEVA: The Geneva based Human Rights Council on Monday condemned the arbitrary killings by use of armed drones in Pakistan and referred to the right to life as the most fundamental of all human rights.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHRC) held a panel discussion on drones, which was called on Pakistan’s resolution adopted by a heavy majority by the council in March this year. It is for the first time that the Human Rights Council formally discussed the issue of armed drones in violation of international human rights law as well as the UN Charter and international humanitarian law.
The panelists highlighted the importance of the principles of distinction between combatants and civilians proportionalitym transparency, accountability and respect for sovereignty of states during the use of armed drones. The Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri said that the use of armed drones should be consistent with international law and referred to grave human rights implications of armed drones, particularly on children, women, elderly and the disabled.
The panel of legal experts included Shahzad Akbar, Legal Director Foundation for Fundamental Rights, Alex Conte, Director of International Law and Protection Programmes, International Commission of Jurists, Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Summary or Arbitrary Executions and Pardiss Kebriaei, Senior Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights.
During discussion, the panelists said in the absence of compliance with the relevant international law, in particular international human rights law, targeted killing of innocent civilians was tantamount to extrajudicial and summary executions. Referring to loss of precious lives as collateral damage does not absolve the targeting states from its obligations and responsibilities under the international law.
The panelists also raised the issue of right to justice and effective remedy for the victims of drone strikes. They also expressed concern over lack of credible and fair investigation over the killing of innocent civilians during the US drone strikes in Pakistan and urged for a prompt and impartial inquiry into the alleged killings. The panelists underlined the need for the Human Rights Council to continue the ongoing discussion on the impact of use of armed drones on human rights. Due to limited time, 25 countries and five NGOs participated in the three-hour-long interactive discussion.
All countries, except the US, the UK and France, condemned the human rights consequences of US drone strikes in Pakistan and other parts of the world that had resulted in huge loss of innocent lives. They clearly stated that status quo was not acceptable and some participants even referred to extrajudicial killings resulting from the use of armed drones as war crimes and even crimes against humanity. They urged the US and other states using armed drones to ensure respect for international human rights and international humanitarian laws.
It was also underscored that indiscriminate use of force in counter terrorism operations only perpetuated the cycle of violence. Some delegations said that use of armed drones had resulted in violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the member States and there was a need to work on guidelines for ensuring respect for human rights and inviolability of borders while resorting to use of armed drones.
Ambassador Zamir Akram referred to serious concerns by international community over the use of armed drones outside the international legal framework and said that the use of armed drones must comply with longstanding rules of international law, including the UN Charter, international human rights law and international humanitarian law in particular the principles of precaution distinction transparency and proportionality. He said that indiscriminate signature strikes lack of operational transparency and accountability, opaque and vague chain of command, ambiguous and questionable decision making process and accompanied collateral damage during the use of armed drones were tantamount to extrajudicial killings and summary executions.
Ambassador Akram said that Pakistan was of the firm view that the drone technology must follow the law rather than law following the technology. The use of armed drones injected mass hatred in a population further nurturing and fuelling terrorism, he said and emphasized the importance of judicial accountability for such actions at national and international levels and refuted the claims of great care in use of armed drones as made by certain states.
Zamir Akram also highlighted the issue of reparations which were claimed to be available by certain states. However, in practice no such compensations had been made available for the victims of drone strikes.