U.N. official to call for halt of C.I.A. drone strikes in Pakistan
In January, the New York Times reported that only 9 percent of Pakistanis approved of U.S. drone strikes in their territory, with a majority of Pakistanis viewing the U.S. as a greater threat to their nation than India or the Pakistani Taliban. And little wonder. Pakistani authorities estimate that some 140 innocent civilians die for every Al Qaeda or Taliban militant killed in a drone strike. Even a much more conservative estimate, from the New America Foundation, found that since 2004, some 32% of those killed in Pakistan by drone strikes were civilians.
The New York Times today reports:
A senior United Nations official is expected to call on the United States next week to stop Central Intelligence Agency drone strikes against people suspected of belonging to Al Qaeda, complicating the Obama administration’s growing reliance on that tactic in Pakistan.
Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said Thursday that he would deliver a report on June 3 to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva declaring that the “life and death power” of drones should be entrusted to regular armed forces, not intelligence agencies. He contrasted how the military and the C.I.A. responded to allegations that strikes had killed civilians by mistake.
“With the Defense Department you’ve got maybe not perfect but quite abundant accountability as demonstrated by what happens when a bombing goes wrong in Afghanistan,” he said in an interview. “The whole process that follows is very open. Whereas if the C.I.A. is doing it, by definition they are not going to answer questions, not provide any information, and not do any follow-up that we know about.”
Alston's call is not legally binding, and he will not make any claims of war crimes. But the Times points out that the same legal rationale used to exonerate those responsible for the drone strikes could just as easily exonerate the "detainees" now held by the U.S. at Guantanamo. But that's about nuances of the law. What is more important is that innocent civilians are being killed by a clumsy weapon, in a nation with which we are not even at war.
Specifically, Alston is only calling for accountability. But with accountability might come some level of transparency; and with transparency might come some degree of protection for innocents.