SC rejects plea against govt in drone attacks case

Published May 12, 2019
The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal moved to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the government for not implementing a Peshawar High Court (PHC) directive of taking steps for the cessation of drone attacks. — AFP/File
The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal moved to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the government for not implementing a Peshawar High Court (PHC) directive of taking steps for the cessation of drone attacks. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal moved to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the government for not implementing a Peshawar High Court (PHC) directive of taking steps for the cessation of drone attacks.

Read: PHC declares drone strikes illegal, orders govt to compensate victims

A three-judge SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, rejected the petition with the observation that it was not the job of courts to stop drone attacks, because it fell within the domain of government policy-making.

The appeal was moved by the Foundation for Fundamental Rights through its Managing Trustee Raja Saad Sultan against the Dec 3, 2014 PHC decision that had dismissed a similar plea to initiate contempt proceedings against the ministries of foreign affairs and defence for not implementing the high court orders.

It’s not the job of courts to stop drone attacks, observes chief justice

The petitioner in its initial plea had raised objections against drone attacks carried out by US authorities in North and South Waziristan. The strikes were a blatant violation of basic human rights and were against the UN Charter and the UN General Assembly Resolution, which were adopted unanimously, the petitioner argued.

In accordance with the provisions of the Geneva Convention, the petitioner highlighted, such attacks were held to be war crimes and cognizable by the International Court of Justice or the Special Tribunal for War Crimes. The petitioner contended that the drone strikes against a handful of non-combatant people who were not engaged in combat with the US authorities or forces, amounted to breach of international law and conventions.

Similarly, the petitioner said, civilian casualties including considerable damage to property, livestock, wildlife and killings of infants/suckling babies, women and children was a non-condonable crime on part of the US authorities.

In its order on the petition in 2013, the PHC asked the ministries concerned to take appropriate measures, also citing that 1,449 civilians were killed in five years in Waziristan in which a very negligible number of militants have been killed.

However, 14 drone strikes were carried out within the sovereign territory of Pakistan killing 98 persons despite the order in 2013, the PHC was informed through a contempt of court petition against the government.

During the pendency of the petition, 29 more drone attacks were carried out due to non-implementation of the May 9, 2013 decision of the PHC. The court, however, rejected the contempt of court petition.

In his appeal before the Supreme Court, the petitioner contended that the rejection of contempt petition by the PHC was against the law and the established principles of natural justice and was a result of haste and whimsical assumptions.

The appeal pleaded that the PHC order was a non-speaking order and did not cite any reasons for its conclusion to the effect that the respondents had complied the judgements as per their ability and they had not committed any contempt of court.

Moreover, the high court while passing the impugned order also failed to mention or give any reference to the written arguments/rebuttal of the counsel, therefore, interference on part of the Supreme Court was warranted, the appeal argued.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2019

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