Pakistan's highest court rules U.S. drone strikes illegal

Judges said that since innocent civilians have been killed, the strikes should be considered war crimes

By Natasha Lennard

Published May 9, 2013 8:46PM (EDT)


The highest court in Pakistan ruled Thursday that U.S. drone strikes are illegal. The Peshawar High Court advised the Pakistani government to to move a resolution against the attacks in the United Nations, the U.K.'s Independent newspaper reported.

The ruling bolsters recent claims made by U.N. human rights expert Ben Emmerson Q.C., following a visit to Pakistan, that authorities in the country gave no consent, tacit or otherwise, for the CIA strikes to be carried out in its tribal regions. However, reporting by Mark Mazzetti suggests that a secret deal, forged between the CIA and the Pakistani military, gave the go-ahead for U.S. drone strikes in return for the initial targeting of an enemy of the Pakistani state (not an al-Qaida operative).

The high court's decision Thursday declared that the drone strikes court must be declared a war crime as they killed innocent people. In March of this year, the Pakistani government said that "at least 400" have been killed by drone strikes in the country. The British Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates a similar figure.

The Independent reported on Thursday's Peshawar High Court ruling, which human rights advocates are celebrating as a landmark:

Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan, who headed a two-judge bench that heard the petitions, ruled the drone strikes were illegal, inhumane and a violation of the U.N. charter on human rights. The court said the strikes must be declared a war crime as they killed innocent people.

“The government of Pakistan must ensure that no drone strike takes place in the future,” the court said, according to the Press Trust of India. It asked Pakistan's foreign ministry to table a resolution against the American attacks in the U.N.

“If the U.S. vetoes the resolution, then the country should think about breaking diplomatic ties with the U.S.,” the judgment said.

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

MORE FROM Natasha LennardFOLLOW natashalennardLIKE Natasha Lennard

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Al-qaida Cia Drone Strikes Drones Pakistan Peshawar High Court Un United Nations