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Drone strikes must strictly adhere to international law: UN

24 December, 2013

UNITED NATIONS: With armed drone strikes persisting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Monday reaffirmed his position that their use must be regulated and controlled by the terms of international law.

The UN chief spoke about the ever-increasing drone strikes in the pursuit of the "war on terror" five days after the UN General Assembly adopted at Pakistan's initiative a resolution calling for the operations by remotely controlled aircraft to comply with international law.

"The operations of arms drones must strictly adhere to international law and international humanitarian law," he told a press conference, while responding to a question.The secretary-general deplored civilian casualties resulting from drone strikes, saying the targets must be legitimate.

The call for bringing the use of drones against suspected terrorists to be governed by international law was contained in a lengthy, 28-paragraph resolution, entitled "Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism."

Armed drones are a key but controversial component of the US war against terrorism, including against targets in Pakistan.The resolution urges States "To ensure that any measures taken or means employed to counter terrorism, including the use of remotely piloted aircraft, comply with their obligations under international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, human rights law and international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction and proportionality.

The text also calls for taking into account "Relevant United Nations resolutions and decisions on human rights, and encourages them to give due consideration to the recommendations of the special procedures and mechanisms of the Human Rights Council and to the relevant comments and views of United Nations human rights treaty bodies."

The resolution also takes note of the report of the Special Rapporteur Ben Emersson "which refers, inter alia, to the use of remotely piloted aircraft, and notes the recommendations, including the urgent and imperative need to seek agreement among Member States on legal questions pertaining to remotely piloted aircraft operations."

The text also encouraged "States while countering terrorism to undertake prompt, independent and impartial fact-finding inquiries whenever there are plausible indications of possible breaches to their obligations under international human rights law, with a view to ensuring accountability."

Addressing the UN General Assembly in September, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the use of armed drones in the border areas of Pakistan were a continued violation of Pakistan's territorial integrity and also stressed that they result in casualties of innocent civilians and are detrimental to efforts to eliminate extremism and terrorism.

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