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UN official to ask US to rethink drone attacks: Report

The use of the deadly drone attacks to combat Taliban and al Qaeda militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan by the US intelligence agencies lacks the accountability under international law.

New York: The use of the deadly drone
attacks to combat Taliban and al Qaeda militants in
Afghanistan and Pakistan by the US intelligence agencies lacks
the accountability under international law, a top UN official
said on Friday.

Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur
on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, will tell
the UN Human Rights Council that the "life and death power" of
drones should be entrusted to regular armed forces, not
intelligence agencies, the New York Times reported.

Alston, a New York University law professor, will call
next week for new international rules to govern the use of
drones to ensure they are deployed in line with the laws of

His report to the United Nations on June 3 could
complicate the Obama administrations growing reliance on that
tactic in Pakistan and Afghanistan to fight the terrorists in
the restive tribal areas.

"With the Defence Department you’ve got maybe not
perfect but quite abundant accountability as demonstrated by
what happens when a bombing goes wrong in Afghanistan, he was
quoted as saying by The Times.

"The whole process that follows is very open. Whereas
if the CIA is doing it, by definition they are not going to
answer questions, not provide any information, and not do any
follow-up that we know about," the official underlined.

Next week, Alston is expected to ask the the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) to stop drone attacks against
suspected al-Qaeda operatives- a practice that has also led to
the death of several innocent people Pakistanis and Afghanis
and created much hostility towards the US, the report said.

Alston, however, noted that he will not assert that
the operation of combat drones by nonmilitary personnel is a
war crime.

Since the CIA operatives are not combatants of the
nature required by the laws of war, it is difficult for the
Obama administration to explain why they are allowed to carry
out these attacks.

The CIA, however, argues that it (agency’s operations)
is overseen by the Congress and the White House.

"While we don’t discuss or confirm specific
activities, this agency’s operations take place in a framework
of both law and government oversight," said Paula Weiss, CIA
spokesperson. "It would be wrong to suggest the CIA is not

To avoid being charged as war criminals, the Times
noted that President Barack Obama’s legal team had redrafted
the rules so that murder by an unprivileged combatant would
instead be treated like espionage.

"An accused may be convicted," the final manual
states, if he "engaged in conduct traditionally triable by
military commission (e.g., spying; murder committed while the
accused did not meet the requirements of privileged
belligerency) even if such conduct does not violate the
international law of war, it said.

Alston noted that "it is not per se illegal" for CIA
operatives to fire drone missiles "because anyone can
stand up and start to act as a belligerent" but they would not
be entitled to battlefield immunity like soldiers.

This means that these agents can be prosecuted in a
Pakistani court but would not be violating the laws of war.


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