U.N. team to investigate civilian drone deaths

Special rapporteur said that civilian killings in follow-up strikes could be found to be war crimes


Natasha Lennard
October 26, 2012 1:40AM (UTC)

The United Nations plans to set up a special investigation unit in early 2013 to look at incidents of civilian death in U.S. drone strikes. Speaking Thursday at Harvard Law School, U.N. special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC, who monitors counter-terrorism programs, announced plans for the investigative team, which will be based in Geneva. According to the UK's Bureau of Investigative Journalism, "U.N. investigators have been critical of U.S. ‘extrajudicial executions’ since they began in 2002. The new Geneva-based unit will also look at the legality of the program."

Emmerson said in his Harvard announcement, "If the relevant states are not willing to establish effective independent monitoring mechanisms … then it may in the last resort be necessary for the U.N. to act." He noted:

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[It is] alleged that since President Obama took office at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. [U.N. consultant, professor of human rights] Christof Heyns … has described such attacks, if they prove to have happened, as war crimes. I would endorse that view.

Emmerson's announcement comes the same week that the Washington Post reported on the Obama administration's expanding kill lists and the institutionalizing of the U.S. drone program.


Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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