UN Finds US Drone Strikes Violate Pakistan's Sovereignty
March 17, 2013
Louis Charbonneau / Reuters & David Ingram / Reuters
UN special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, Ben Emmerson, visited Pakistan for three days this week as part of his investigation into the civilian impact of the use of drones and other forms of targeted killings. Emmerson concluded the United States has violated Pakistan's sovereignty and shattered tribal structures with unmanned drone strikes in its counterterrorism operations near the Afghan border.
US Drone Strikes Violate Pakistan's Sovereignty: UN
Louis Charbonneau / Reuters
UNITED NATIONS (March 15 2013) -- The United States has violated Pakistan's sovereignty and shattered tribal structures with unmanned drone strikes in its counterterrorism operations near the Afghan border, a UN human rights investigator said in a statement on Friday.
UN special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, Ben Emmerson, visited Pakistan for three days this week as part of his investigation into the civilian impact of the use of drones and other forms of targeted killings.
"As a matter of international law, the US drone campaign in Pakistan is .., being conducted without the consent of the elected representatives of the people, or the legitimate Government of the State," Emmerson said in a statement issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.
"It involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty," he said.
Emmerson said in January he would investigate 25 drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories. He is expected to present his final report to the UN General Assembly in October.
Washington had little to say about Emmerson's statement.
"We've seen his press release. I'm obviously not going to speak about classified information here," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. "We have a strong ongoing counterterrorism dialogue with Pakistan and that will continue."
Spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House would withhold judgment until it sees Emmerson's full report.
"We have a solid working relationship with them (Pakistan) on a range of issues, including a close cooperative security relationship, and we're in touch with them on a regular basis on those issues."
'END MILITARY INTERFERENCE'
Emmerson said the Pashtun tribes of northwestern Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, Pakistan's largely lawless region bordering Afghanistan, have been decimated by the counterterrorism operations.
"These proud and independent people have been self-governing for generations, and have a rich tribal history that has been too little understood in the West," he said. "Their tribal structures have been broken down by the military campaign in FATA and by the use of drones in particular."
The tribal areas have never been fully integrated into Pakistan's administrative, economic or judicial system. They are dominated by ethnic Pashtun tribes, some of which have sheltered and supported militants over decades of conflict in neighboring Afghanistan.
Clearing out militant border sanctuaries is seen by Washington as crucial to bringing stability to Afghanistan, particularly as the US-led combat mission ends in 2014.
Most, but not all, attacks with unmanned aerial vehicles have been by the United States. Britain and Israel have also used them, and dozens of other countries are believed to possess the technology.
"It is time for the international community to heed the concerns of Pakistan, and give the next democratically elected government of Pakistan the space, support and assistance it needs to deliver a lasting peace on its own territory without forcible military interference by other states," Emmerson said.
The UN Human Rights Council asked Emmerson to start an investigation of the drone attacks following requests by countries including Pakistan, Russia and China.
Criticism of drone strikes centers on the number of civilians killed and the fact that they are launched across sovereign states' borders so frequently, far more than conventional attacks by piloted aircraft.
Retired US General Stanley McChrystal, who devised the US counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, warned in January against overusing drones, which have provoked angry demonstrations in Pakistan.
Civilian casualties from drone strikes have angered local populations and created tension between the United States and Pakistan and Afghanistan. Washington has sought to portray civilian casualties as minimal, but groups collecting data on these attacks say they have killed hundreds of civilians.
(Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria and Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by Doina Chiacu.)
(c) Thomson Reuters 2011. All rights reserved.
US Court Pressures Obama for Drone Policy Details
David Ingram / Reuters
WASHINGTON (March 15 2013) -- A federal judge twice considered by President Barack Obama for the Supreme Court has rebuked the administration over the secrecy surrounding aerial drone strikes abroad, adding to pressure Obama already faces from fellow Democrats.
A ruling on Friday from Judge Merrick Garland in Washington capped a week of mounting calls for the release of more information and follows a drawn-out confirmation process for the new director of the Central Intelligence agency, John Brennan.
The Obama administration defends the attacks as essential to the fight against al Qaeda and other militants in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen. The strikes have at times killed civilians who were not targets, ignited local anger and frayed diplomatic ties.
A Democratic senator confronted Obama about the drone program at a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, the Politico newspaper reported, and on Wednesday a lawyer who led Obama's 2008 presidential transition, John Podesta, wrote an opinion piece accusing the administration of wrongly withholding drone-related legal opinions.
Garland, writing for himself and two other judges on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, criticized the Central Intelligence Agency for refusing in a lawsuit even to acknowledge the existence of its drone program. He called the CIA's legal reasoning indefensible and a fiction.
"'There comes a point where... courts should not be ignorant as judges of what (they) know as men' and women," Garland wrote, quoting a 1949 Supreme Court opinion.
"We are at that point with respect to the question of whether the CIA has any documents regarding the subject of drone strikes," he wrote.
The ruling effectively revives a lawsuit in which the American Civil Liberties Union is asking for records from the CIA. Obama administration lawyers have opposed the suit.
In response to the ruling, a National Security Council spokeswoman said the administration had been more transparent than any of its predecessors on the conduct of sensitive counterterrorism operations but would not discuss details of specific operations.
Caitlin Hayden, the spokeswoman, said in a statement: "We will continue to disclose as much as we can -- as soon as we can -- regarding the framework, the standards, and the process through which we approve such operations."
Justice Department spokeswoman Nanda Chitre said the department was reviewing the decision, while CIA spokesman Todd Ebitz said: "The CIA does not, as a rule, comment on matters before the courts."
Attorney General Eric Holder said in congressional testimony on March 6 that Obama would soon reveal more about the legal rationale for drone strikes.
"We have talked about a need for greater transparency," said Holder, the chief US law enforcement official.
Democrats outside the administration have shown growing impatience with the secrecy. West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller, a former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, urged Obama to be more open during the president's meeting with Senate Democrats on Tuesday, Politico reported.
Podesta, a Democratic insider who oversaw Obama's 2008 transition, wrote in The Washington Post on Wednesday that Obama "is ignoring the system of checks and balances that has governed our country from its earliest days."
Last week, two Democratic senators voiced similar ideas in voting against confirming John Brennan as Obama's CIA director. Brennan was confirmed to the post on March 7, but the confirmation process was delayed for weeks by concerns about the administration's use of drones.
HIGH COURT CANDIDATE
Garland, 60, was a high-level Justice Department official when President Bill Clinton appointed him a judge.
He was on Obama's list of candidates for the Supreme Court when vacancies arose in 2009 and 2010. Obama chose others, but Garland remains a frequently cited judge on the influential appeals court in Washington.
In its efforts to quash the ACLU's records suit, the CIA said it could neither confirm nor deny whether it had drone records because of security concerns.
The ACLU, which sued under the 1966 Freedom of Information Act, countered that government officials had already acknowledged the drone program in public statements from 2009 to 2012.
The question became whether the statements by Obama, former CIA Director Leon Panetta and former counterterrorism adviser Brennan amounted to an official acknowledgment.
Garland ruled that they did, writing, "The president of the United States has himself publicly acknowledged that the United States uses drone strikes against al Qaeda."
However, if the case follows the pattern of similar suits, the ACLU is likely a long way from getting any records. Its suit now heads back to a trial court, where the CIA could invoke other defenses against the records request.
Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, said the ruling would make it more difficult for the government to deflect questions about drones.
"The public surely has a right to know who the government is killing, and why, and in which countries, and on whose orders," Jaffer said in a statement.
(Additional reporting by Mark Felsenthal and Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Howard Goller and David Brunnstrom)
(c) Thomson Reuters 2011. All rights reserved.
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