United Nations to investigate drone killings

Thu Jan 24, 2013 12:52pm EST
 

By Brenda Goh

LONDON (Reuters) - The United Nations launched an inquiry on Thursday into the use of unmanned drones in counter-terrorism operations, after criticism of the number of innocent civilians killed by the aircraft.

The inquiry, announced in London, will investigate 25 drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories.

Most attacks with unmanned aerial vehicles have been by the United States. Britain and Israel have also used them, and dozens more states are believed to possess the technology.

"The plain fact is that this technology is here to stay, and its use in theatres of conflict is a reality with which the world must contend," said inquiry leader Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights.

"It is therefore imperative that appropriate legal and operational structures are urgently put in place to regulate its use in a manner that complies with the requirements of international law."

Criticism of drone strikes centers on the number of civilians killed and the fact that they are launched across sovereign states' borders so frequently - far more than conventional attacks by piloted aircraft.

Retired U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, who authored the U.S. counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan, warned earlier this month against overusing drones, which have provoked angry demonstrations in Pakistan.

Data collected by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism say 2,600-3,404 Pakistanis have been killed by drones, of which 473-889 were reported to be civilians.   Continued...

 
Undated handout image courtesy of the U.S. Air Force shows a MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft. REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Lt Col Leslie Pratt/Handout