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UN human rights chief questions legality of drone strikes

Published Aug 20, 2013 05:30pm
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said she was “seriously concerned about human rights implications for the protection of civilians of armed drone strikes."—AFP Photo
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said she was “seriously concerned about human rights implications for the protection of civilians of armed drone strikes."—AFP Photo
During his visit to Islamabad on August 13, 2013, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon  expressed concern over loss of life caused by armed drones and urged that they be used in accordance with international laws.—Photo by AFP
During his visit to Islamabad on August 13, 2013, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern over loss of life caused by armed drones and urged that they be used in accordance with international laws.—Photo by AFP

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations human rights chief has urged the United States and Israel to clarify the legal basis for the use of armed drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Gaza.

The Security Council met today to hold an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the meeting that “the current lack of transparency surrounding their use creates an accountability vacuum and affects the ability of victims to seek redress.”

Speaking by videoconference, Pillay said she was “seriously concerned about human rights implications for the protection of civilians of armed drone strikes carried out in the context of counter-terrorism and military operations including in Pakistan, Yemen and Gaza.”

“I urge relevant states to clarify the legal basis for such strikes as well as the safeguards in place to ensure compliance with applicable international law,” Pillay said.

A top Pakistani diplomat also called for an end to drones strikes as he backed the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s stand that they must operate within international law.

On his visit to Pakistan earlier this month, the UN Secretary-General had expressed concern over the loss of life caused by the armed UAVs and urged that they be used in accordance with international laws.

“We believe that such strikes violate international humanitarian law and therefore should be stopped,” Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN Masood Khan said during the Security Council’s open debate on Monday.

“Negotiations in this regard must be intensified,” he said in the debate that coincided with World Humanitarian Day.

“We endorse the Secretary General’s views that these principles also apply to the use of new technologies, including armed drones. We support High Commissioner Navi Pillay’s call made today for clarifying the legal basis of armed drones strikes.”

The Pakistani envoy said that, even as the Council was meeting, wars and conflicts were unfolding, with the majority of their victims, civilians.

“Despite established norms and laws, the abysmal state of civilians in armed conflicts had changed little,” he said, adding that it was imperative to translate strategy into action on the ground.