South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Published in The Pakistan Today on Sep. 23 ::

HRC panel discusses use of drones in accordance with international law

Geneva-based Human Rights Council (HRC) Monday condemned arbitrary killings by the use of armed United States (US)-led drones in Pakistan.

Referring to the right to life as the most fundamental of all human rights, the council held a panel discussion for the first time on ensuring the use of armed drones in counterterrorism and military operations in accordance with international law, including international human rights and humanitarian law.

The panellists highlighted the importance of the principles of distinction between combatants and civilians, proportionality, transparency, accountability and respect for sovereignty of states during the use of armed drones.

Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri said that the use of armed drones should be consistent with international law and referred to grave human rights implications of armed drones particularly on children, women, elderly and the disabled.

The panel of legal experts included Foundation for Fundamental Rights Legal Director Shahzad Akbar, International Law and Protection Programmes International Commission of Jurists Director Alex Conte, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns and Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei.

It was discussed that in the absence of compliance with relevant international law particularly international human rights law, targeted killing of innocent civilians was tantamount to extrajudicial and summary executions.

Referring to the loss of precious lives as collateral damage does not absolve the targeting states from its obligations and responsibilities under international law, said the speakers.

The panellists also raised the issue of right to justice and effective remedy for the victims of drone strikes.

They expressed concern over lack of credible and fair investigation over the killing of innocent civilians during US drone strikes in Pakistan and urged for a prompt and impartial enquiry into the alleged killings.

The panellists underlined the need for the HRC to continue the ongoing discussion on the impact of use of armed drones on human rights.

Twenty-five countries and five Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) participated in the three-hour-long interactive discussion.