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United Nations will investigate to determine if drone strikes qualify for war crimes

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 25th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

An investigation has been launched by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights into drone strikes. The investigation will review resultant civilian casualties to determine whether the attacks constitute a war crime.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Ben Emmerson, appointed by the U.N. to report on its proceedings on human rights and counter-terrorism, formally launched the inquiry this week in response to requests from Russia, China and Pakistan.

A statement released by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights states that the inquiry will provide a "critical examination of the factual evidence concerning civilian casualties."

The investigation intends to make recommendations to the U.N. General Assembly to prompt countries to "investigate into the lawfulness and proportionality of such attacks.

"This is not an investigation into the conduct of any particular state. It's an investigation into the consequence into this form of technology," Emmerson said.

"The reality is that the increasing availability of this technology [...] makes it very likely that more states will be using this technology in the coming months and years and includes raising the specter that non-state organizations - organizations labeled as terrorist groups - could use the technology in retaliation," he added.

Emmerson said that it was a "very serious and escalating situation" which must be addressed by the international community "urgently." The British government has already agreed to co-operate with the investigation and that he was "optimistic" that the U.S. would do the same.

He also requested the U.S. to release "before and after" videos of the drone strikes and internal reports of those killed, including civilians.

The team will then conduct the inquiry in consultation with military experts and journalists from the U.K., Yemen and Pakistan.

Senior Journalist Chris Woods with the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism said "more than 400 US covert drone strikes have so far taken place in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia which have killed at least 3,000 people."

In a twitter post from Emmerson's press conference, Woods said that the "inquiry will study 25 drone strikes, where civilians [were] reported killed across Yemen, FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan], Somalia, Afghanistan and Gaza."

"We believe more than 500 were likely to have been civilians [in those attacks]. The U.N. inquiry is important because it will focus on the key questions of the legality of such strikes, and the reported deaths of civilians," he says.

He believes that there is not enough evidence to support the claims of some U.S. officials who say that Pakistan secretly approves drone strikes.

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