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UN 'to seek' end to CIA drone raids
Senior official quoted as saying attacks could constitute violation of international law.
Last Modified: 28 May 2010 10:59 GMT
Alston is expected to deliver a report on June 3 to the UN Human Rights Council on US drone attacks [AFP]

A senior United Nations official is planning to call on the US to end aerial drone attacks by the Central Intelligence Agency against alleged al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan, according to the New York Times.

The call is expected to come next week, a report in the US newspaper's website said on Friday.

Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said on Thursday that he will deliver a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, arguing that the "life and death power" of drones should be executed by regular armed forces rather than intelligence agencies.

Alston's recommendations, which are expected to be delivered in a June 3 report, are not legally binding.

He argues that conventional military forces are more accountable than intelligence agencies for investigating civilian casualties.

"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," Alston said.

"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."

Under international law, soldiers representing conventional militaries are allowed to kill enemy troops in war zones.

'Lawful combatancy'

The government of George Bush, the previous US president, issued a policy manual in 2007 which defined "murder in violation of the laws of war" as killing someone who did not meet "the requirements for lawful combatancy".

These requirements include being part of a regular army or otherwise wearing a uniform.

in depth

  Inside Story: Pakistan - A new wave of attacks?
  Video: US panel debates drone legality
  Neither wars nor drones

According to this definition of murder, CIA drone operators, who do not wear the uniforms of conventional soldiers, could theoretically be considered war criminals and subject to prosecution in Pakistani courts.

Paul Weiss, a CIA spokeswoman, said that the "agency's operations take place in a framework of both law and government oversite".

"It would be wrong to suggest the CIA is not accountable," he said, although she refused to discuss or confirm specific activities. 

By some accounts, drone attacks - which reportedly commence at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia - have increased during president Barack Obama's time in office.

The Long War Journal, a blog that uses open-source information to track US operations in the Middle East, tallied five US aerial attacks in Pakistan in 2007 and 36 in 2008.

In 2009, Obama's first year in office, aerial attacks increased 47 per cent to 53, with unmanned drones responsible for most strikes. 

Source:
Agencies
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