US insists drone strikes comply with international law
23 October, 2013
WASHINGTON: The United States on Tuesday denied its drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan and elsewhere infringed international law and said it did all it could to avoid civilian causalities.
The comments followed the publication of reports on the US drone war by two human rights groups, and came a day before Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to bring up concerns about the US tactic at White House talks.
"We are reviewing these reports carefully," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
"To the extent these reports claim that the US has acted contrary to international law, we would strongly disagree.
"The administration has repeatedly emphasized the extraordinary care that we take to make sure counterterrorism actions are in accordance with all applicable law."
Carney also said that by deciding to use drone aircraft against terror suspects, rather than sending in troops or using other weapons, Washington was "choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life."
Earlier Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch unveiled reports detailing civilian casualties in a number of US operations in Pakistan and Yemen.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are jointly calling on the US Congress to fully investigate the cases the two organizations have documented as well as other potentially unlawful strikes, and to disclose any evidence of human rights violations to the public. Those responsible for unlawful killings should be appropriately disciplined or prosecuted.
The groups called on Obama to provide a full legal rationale for targeted killings in Yemen and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan stated that he and his party felt vindicated again with the publication of the Amnesty International report on drones.
The report entitled, 'Will I be Next: US Drone Strikes in Pakistan' points out that the US must be held accountable for drone killings in Pakistan, and as Khan pointed out, it also suggests that these unlawful killings could amount to war crimes.
Khan reminded that PTI had consistently held that drone attacks were a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and a violation of international law including human rights. Khan demanded the judgement of the Peshawar High Court on drones earlier this year, should also be implemented immediately.
"The government has been mandated by all the political parties to stop drones over FATA and the PML-N itself committed to doing the same if elected to power. Now the time has come to implement the APC mandate and its own electoral commitment to the people of Pakistan", Khan added.
He also pointed out that last week the BBC referred to a UN investigation which had found that US drone strikes had killed at least 400 civilians in Pakistan, far more than the US has ever acknowledged. Khan condemned the conspiracy of deliberate confusion and duplicity on drone attacks against Pakistan's FATA region which was now being exposed internationally and said, "It is sad to learn of our own leaders and other elements being part of this conspiracy – a point that is highlighted in the Amnesty International report."
The illegal and unilateralist US policy of using drones to kill people in Pakistan was absolutely unacceptable and the federal government should ensure that this unlawful US action was stopped immediately. Khan pointed out that today drones threaten the APC-mandated dialogue process to give peace a chance. "This cannot be allowed to happen."
There must be zero tolerance for such actions against Pakistan and its people, Khan asserted, as it fuel militancy and aggravate the problem of terrorism, especially in the frontline province of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa.