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UNGA adopts unanimous resolution against drone attacks

20 December, 2013

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UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Wednesday adopted a resolution calling on states using drone strikes as a counter-terrorism measure to comply with international law as the 193-member body acted on a range of issues relating mainly to human rights as innocent citizens fall prey to the drone strikes.

The unanimous call for regulating the use of remotely-piloted aircraft against suspected terrorists was contained in a comprehensive 28-paragraph resolution, entitled, "Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism." The portion about the drone strikes was included as a result of intensive efforts made by the Pakistani delegation.

It is the first time that the General Assembly has spoken out on the use of armed drones — a key but controversial component of the US war against terrorism and against targets in Pakistan.

The assembly underscored the "urgent and imperative" need for an agreement among the member states on legal questions about the drone operations.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 UN, 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 considerations to the recommendations of the special procedures and mechanisms of the Human Rights Council and to the relevant comments and views of the UN human rights treaty bodies.

The resolution also takes note of the report of the Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson "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 were plausible indications of possible breaches to their obligations under international human rights law, with a view to ensuring accountability.

Meanwhile, the UNGA stamped its approval on a Pakistan-sponsored resolution reaffirming that the universal realisation of the right of people to self-determination was a fundamental condition for the effective guarantee and observance of human rights.

The resolution, co-sponsored by a record number of 81 countries, was adopted with consensus. The text was recommended by the General Assembly's third committee, which dealt with social, humanitarian and cultural issues.

Diplomatic observers say the resolution, which Pakistan has been tabling since 1981, serves to focus the world's attention on the struggle by people for their inalienable right to self-determination, including those in Kashmir and Palestine.

The resolution also declared the body's firm opposition to acts of foreign military intervention, aggression and occupation, since these have resulted in the suppression of self-determination and other human rights in certain parts of the world.

The resolution also called on those states responsible for ceasing immediately their military intervention in and occupation of foreign countries and territories, as well as all acts of repression, discrimination, exploitation and maltreatment.

The assembly deplored the plight of millions of refugees and displaced persons, uprooted as a result of these acts and reaffirmed their right to return to their homes voluntarily in safety and honour.

It also requested the Human Rights Council to give special attention to the violation of human rights, especially the right to self-determination, resulting from foreign military intervention, aggression or occupation. It also requested the Secretary General to report to the next session of the General Assembly on this question.

In addition, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on promoting inter-religious and intercultural dialogue under which the 193-member body affirmed that mutual understanding and dialogue were important components of peace culture.

Sponsored by Pakistan and the Philippine, the resolution presented solemn commitment of all the states to promote universal respect for and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, in accordance with the UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Also, under the terms of the text, the assembly encouraged states to consider, where appropriate, initiatives identifying areas for practical action in all sectors of society for the promotion of inter-religious and intercultural dialogue, tolerance, understanding and cooperation.

States were invited to promote reconciliation to help ensure durable peace and sustained development.The resolution welcomed the efforts by the media to promote inter-religious and intercultural dialogue, emphasising the right to freedom of expression, and that the exercise of this right carries with it special duties and responsibilities and might therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these should be only such as are provided by law.


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