UN official urges greater accountability for US drone strikes

A top UN official on June 2 called on the US to cease CIA drone strikes in Pakistan until more accountability for the strikes exists. UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston said that, despite their usefulness against terrorist organizations, the international community is kept uninformed of when and where drone attacks are authorized, allowing the CIA to conduct strikes virtually anywhere in the world without having to answer for its actions.

In a report to the UN Human Rights Council May 29, Alston outlined the gaps he sees in accountability for drone strikes:

Even where the laws of war are clearly applicable, there has been a tendency to expand who may permissibly be targeted and under what conditions. Moreover, the States concerned have often failed to specify the legal justification for their policies, to disclose the safeguards in place to ensure that targeted killings are in fact legal and accurate, or to provide accountability mechanisms for violations. Most troublingly, they have refused to disclose who has been killed, for what reason, and with what collateral consequences. The result has been the displacement of clear legal standards with a vaguely defined licence to kill, and the creation of a major accountability vacuum.

The CIA rebuffed the accusations made by Alston, stating that the agency works under a strict legal framework and substantial government oversight. The agency claims that its “accountability [is] real” and the secrecy of its missions should not lead the UN to assume its is not acting responsibly. According to the UN, the US is the most prolific user of targeted killings today.

From Jurist, June 3. Used with permission.

See our last post on Pakistan and the drone strikes.