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Friday, January 25, 2013

Rein in impunity or descend further into barbarism

Expedient wars, human targeting, civilian massacre ─ no nation permitted to operate outside law, human rights convention or we descend into utter lawlessness
Editing, re-reporting, commentary by Carolyn Bennett

The work of the United Nations in reining in U.S. impunity, the check on Washington’s callous recklessness, its disregard for life is welcome indeed.

United Nations
The inquiry into extrajudicial killings, the ordering and deployment of assassination drones is long past due and the investigation must be thorough and effective for the sake of moral order and the rule of law, for the sake of people all over the world ─ not only, but especially the innocents (in a civilized world, people are presumed innocent until proved guilty through judicial process) and civilians of all ages and kinds.  

Leader of killer drone inquiry
Ben Emmerson QC
UN Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism and Human Rights

Leading the United Nations investigation of drones is international lawyer Ben Emmerson QC who specializes in cases involving human rights, international humanitarian law, criminal law, and public law.

Nonviolence symbol
A profile of Emmerson says he has conducted more than 30 cases as an advocate appearing before the European Court of Human Rights, acting both for and against the government of the United Kingdom and other Council of Europe Member States.  He has been particularly recognized for his work in developing the law governing the protection of the right to life in Article 2 and the state’s duty to prevent torture and inhuman and degrading treatment under Article 3.

While he has a particular reputation in the application of international standards to criminal law and procedure, Emmerson has extensive experience in all aspects of ECHR litigation and has acted in cases covering a wide range of international law issues including diplomatic and state immunity, parliamentary privilege, judicial independence, and discipline within the armed forces.

mmerson is currently the British judge on the Residual Mechanism of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  He has previously acted as Special Adviser to the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court and Special Adviser to the international judges of the UN backed Khymer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia.
 In June 2011, he was elected by the UN Human Rights Council as UN Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism and Human Rights. In this capacity he reports annually to the UN General Assembly, the UN Human Rights Council and relevant entities established by the Security Council. He also conducts country visits and reports, and provides technical and other advice to States.

Killer drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs)
Echoes of U.S. nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

U.S. President Harry Truman calculated that the atomic bomb “might be used to defeat Japan in a way less costly of U.S. lives than a conventional invasion of the Japanese homeland” so in 1945 he laid waste to hundreds of thousands of innocent people in a distant land.  

The combined heat and blast of the U.S. atomic bomb (the United States is the only nation that has used the nuclear bomb against human beings) on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, pulverized everything in the explosion’s immediate vicinity, generated spontaneous fires that wiped out, burned completely, almost 4.4 square miles, killed between 70,000 and 80,000 people, and injured more than 70,000 others. A second bomb, dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, killed between 35,000 and 40,000 people, injured a like number, and devastated 1.8 square miles. (Britannica note]

ifty-one countries possess the technology to use drones but the United States “is responsible for the vast majority of the world’s drone strikes and the practice of targeted killing has become a central component” of the government of U.S. President Barack Obama in its “efforts to combat al-Qaida.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights announced yesterday that he will lead an inquiry that examines the impact of drone strikes on civilian populations in five countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, the Palestinian territories and Somalia.
Pakistanis protest
U.S drone strikes

Ben Emmerson QC told the Guardian that the aim of this inquiry is to “shine the light of truth on competing allegations that there are disproportionate civilian casualties on the one hand and that there are few or no civilian casualties on the other.” The critical deficit in the current UN debate concerning the legality of drone strikes, he said, “is the absence of independent, objective verification of the facts.”

Pakistanis protest
U.S drone strikes
Prompting inquiry into killer drone attacks

Between June 2004 and September 2012, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports, drone strikes killed between 2,562 and 3,325 people in Pakistan of whom between 474 and 881 were civilians ─ including 176 children.

In Pakistan alone, BIJ updated, CIA drone strikes have resulted in as many as 3,461 deaths ─ including up to 891 civilians.

Yemenis protest
U.S. drone strikes
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights have filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over the deaths of three American citizens killed by U.S. drones in Yemen.

Several nations, including Pakistan and two permanent members of the UN Security Council, called for an inquiry into the use of drones.

Though the UN General Assembly is comprised of 193 member nations, there are only five permanent member states on the UN Security Council: People’s Republic of China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States

Drone missiles
n statements prior to the coming investigation, Judge Emmerson has suggested that some drone attacks – particularly those known as ‘double tap’ strikes where rescuers going to the aid of a first blast have become victims of a follow-up strike – could possibly constitute a ‘war crime.’

Critics have charged that the Obama administration’s targeted killing program is “utterly lacking in transparency and accountability.”

UN Special Rapporteur on
Counter Terrorism and Human Rights
Ben Emmerso
Aim of killer drone inquiry

The UN Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism and Human Rights told the Guardian that one of the fundamental questions to be raised in the drone investigation “is whether aerial targeting using drones is an appropriate method of conflict … where the individuals are embedded in a local community.

‘Whether, given the local demography, aerial attacks carry too high a risk of a disproportionate number of civilian casualties.’

Whether ‘the military dependence on UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) carries an unacceptably high risk of civilian casualties’

Twenty or thirty strikes – selected as representative of different types of attacks – will be studied to assess the extent of any civilian casualties, the identity of militants targeted, and the legality of strikes in countries where the UN has not formally recognized there is a conflict.

 Killer drone inquiry team

Involved in the inquiry into the impact of drone strikes on civilian populations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, the Palestinian territories and Somalia together with Emmerson’s coordination through his UN office in Geneva will be a team of experts including, according to the Guardian, “the former director of public prosecutions, Lord Macdonald QC, a former prosecutor at the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, and Dr Nat Cary, one of the UK’s most experienced pathologists who specializes in the interpretation of injuries caused by explosions.”
The inquiry will report this coming fall to the UN General Assembly in New York City. Depending on its findings, the report might recommend further action.

he problem as I see it is that those who retain power in Washington ─ the nepotistic, the entrenched, the partisans, the tribal ─ are wedded to a single way, a single model of response

They are incapable of evolving to a degree sufficient to forego the baser instinct of barbarism and in its stead embrace a diplomacy of nonviolence as equals in relations among human beings. 

Therefore, these mostly but not only men throwbacks to the dark ages, these obstructionists ─ regardless to their pedigree or position ─ must be reined in, called to account by judicial process. 

Only then has the world a chance to move in concert, to progress as equals for the good of all.  

Sources and notes

Ben Emmerson QC (profile), http://www.matrixlaw.co.uk/Members/49/Ben%20Emmerson.aspx

“UN to examine UK and U.S. drone strikes ─ Strikes will be studied to assess extent of any civilian casualties, identity of militants targeted and legality of actions” (Owen Bowcott, legal affairs correspondent, guardian.co.uk, Wednesday January 23, 2013 19.37 EST ), http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/24/un-examine-uk-afghanistan-drone-strikes?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

“UN inquiry into US drone strikes prompts cautious optimism ─  Critics of Obama's targeted killing program argue it is lacking in transparency but welcome inquiry examining drones’ impact” (Ryan Devereaux, guardian.co.uk, Thursday January 24, 2013 17.14 EST),


Queen’s (or Kings’) Counsel (in some jurisdictions the name has been replaced by one without monarchical connotations such as ‘Senior Counsel’ or ‘Senior Advocate’) is a status conferred by the Crown, which is recognized by courts. Members have the privilege of sitting within the Bar of court. Appointments to be one of Her [or His] Majesty’s Counsel learned in the law are made from within the legal profession on the basis of merit rather than a particular level of experience but successful applicants tend to be barristers, or (in Scotland) advocates, or solicitor advocates with 15 or more years’ experience.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)

Deutsche Welle reported January 20, 2013: The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV, or drone) industry is the fastest growing aeronautics industry. Currently 50 countries use drones, three of them for military strikes.

UN Security Council Membership 2012
Colombia (2012)
Germany (2012)
India (2012)
Portugal (2012)
South Africa (2012)

Azerbaijan (2013)
Guatemala (2013)
Morocco (2013)
Pakistan (2013)
Togo (2013)


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