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Court directs govt to raise drone issue at UN

May 10, 2013

PESHAWAR, May 9: The Peshawar High Court on Thursday declared the US drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas war crimes and issued wide-ranging directives to the federal government and security forces to ensure halt to such attacks and that included the raising of the issue at the UN Security Council and the General Assembly.

“The drone strikes carried out in the tribal areas (Fata), particularly North and South Waziristan, by CIA and the US authorities, are blatant violation of basic human rights and are against the UN Charter, the UN General Assembly resolution adopted unanimously, the provision of Geneva Conventions and thus, it is held to be a war crime cognizable by the International Court of Justice or Special Tribunal for War Crimes constituted or to be constituted by the UNO for this purpose,” the court ruled.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Musarrat Hilali gave the ruling on the four identical writ petitions against the US drone attacks.

The bench had reserved its order after completion of arguments on April 11.

The four petitions were filed by several leaders of Defence of Pakistan Council (DPC), Foundation for Fundamental Rights (FFR), tribal elder Malik Noor Khan and lawyer FM Sabir.

Deputy attorney general Mohammad Iqbal Mohmand, a representative of the federal government, had contended that there existed no agreement between Islamabad and Washington to let the US carry out drone strikes in Pakistani tribal areas and that the drone attacks were a violation of the international law.

In the detailed 22-page judgment, the bench observed: “The government of Pakistan and its security forces shall ensure that in future such drone strikes are not conducted and carried out within the sovereign territory of Pakistan. Proper warning be administered in this regard and if that does not work, the government of Pakistan and state institutions particularly security forces shall have the right being under constitutional and legal obligations to shutdown the drones, attacking Pakistani territories or when these enter the airspace of Pakistan Sovereign territory.”

The bench ruled that the drone strikes carried out against a handful of alleged militants amounted to breach of international law and conventions on the subject matter and therefore, it was held that these were absolutely illegal and blatant violation of the sovereignty of the state of Pakistan because frequent intrusion was made on its territory and airspace without its consent rather against its wishes as despite of the protests lodged by the government of Pakistan with the US, the attacks were being carried out with impunity.

The bench directed the federal government to take the matter seriously at the UN Security Council and in case it did not succeed there if veto power was unduly exercised by the US, then, urgent meeting of the UN General Assembly be requisitioned through a written request to resolve the matter in an effective manner.

The government was also told to “file proper complaint, giving complete details of the losses sustained by Pakistani civilians both to life and properties due to drone strikes, making a request to the UN Secretary General to constitute an independent War Crime Tribunal which should have the mandate to investigate and enquire into all these matters and to give a final verdict as to whether the same amounts to war crime or not and in the former case to direct the US authorities/ the government to immediately stop the drone strikes within the airspace and territory of Pakistan and to immediately arrange for the complete and full compensation for the victims’ families of the civilians of Pakistan both for life and properties at the rate laid down under the international standards.”

The bench ruled that in view of the established facts and figures with regard to civilian casualties and damage caused to the properties, livestock of the citizens of Pakistan, the US government was bound to compensate all the victims’ families at the assessed rate of compensation in kind of US dollars.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is directed to prepare draft resolution/complaints and requisition for doing the needful within a minimum possible time in line of the above guidelines given by the Court, also asking and requiring the Security Council and the General Assembly, as the case may be, to pass a resolution condemning the drone strikes, flown by CIA/US authorities and violating the sovereign territory of Pakistan in violation of UN Charter and various Conventions of the UN, referred to above.”

The bench also ruled that in case the US authorities did not comply with the UN resolution, whether passed by the Security Council or by the General Assembly of UN, the government of Pakistan should sever all ties with the US and as a mark of protest should deny all logistic and other facilities to the US within Pakistan.