The United Nations special rapporteur for counterterrorism will lead an inquiry into civilian deaths from US drone strikes around the world, to determine whether the strikes violate international human rights and humanitarian laws.
The announcement was made by Ben Emmerson QC, a UN special rapporteur, in a speech to Harvard law school in which he condemned secret rendition and waterboarding as crimes under international law. His forthright comments, directed at both US presidential candidates, will be seen as an explicit challenge to the prevailing US ideology of the global war on terror [...]
In his Harvard speech, he said: “If the relevant states are not willing to establish effective independent monitoring mechanisms … then it may in the last resort be necessary for the UN to act.
“Together with my colleague Christof Heyns, [the UN special rapporteur on extra-judicial killings], I will be launching an investigation unit within the special procedures of the [UN] Human Rights Council to inquire into individual drone attacks.”
The US has said that drone attacks fall within international law because they are carried out as a means of self-defense against individuals and aligned groups who would otherwise do the US harm. But this designates the entire world as a battlefield for the global war on terror, and Emmerson questioned the validity of that framework, saying that “the global war paradigm was always based on the flimsiest of reasoning, and was not supported even by close allies of the US.”
The special rapporteur has previously asked for video footage of all US drone strikes, as a means to determine the extent of civilian casualties. In Orwellian fashion, the US has described all adult males in close proximity to a drone strike as an enemy combatant, because they would not otherwise be within range of