US drone attacks in Pakistan: UN backs probe into civilian casualties

Published: June 7, 2012
I see indiscriminate killings, injuries of civilians in any circumstances as human rights violations, says Navi Pillay.

I see indiscriminate killings, injuries of civilians in any circumstances as human rights violations, says Navi Pillay.

ISLAMABAD: The UN human rights chief on Thursday called for a UN investigation into US drone strikes in Pakistan, questioning their legality and saying they kill innocent civilians.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay made the remarks at the end of a four-day visit to the country, where US drone strikes have on average targeted militants once every four days under US President Barack Obama.

Islamabad is understood to have approved the strikes on al Qaeda and Taliban targets in the past. But the government has become increasingly energetic in its public opposition as relations with Washington have nosedived.

“Drone attacks do raise serious questions about compliance with international law,” Pillay told a news conference in Islamabad.

“The principle of distinction and proportionality and ensuring accountability for any failure to comply with international law is also difficult when drone attacks are conducted outside the military chain of command and beyond effective and transparent mechanisms of civilian or military control,” she said.

She said the attacks violate human rights.

“I see the indiscriminate killings and injuries of civilians in any circumstances as human rights violations.”

The UN human rights chief provided no statistics but called for an investigation into civilian casualties, which she said were difficult to track.

“Because these attacks are indiscriminate it is very, very difficult to track the numbers of people who have been killed,” she said.

“I suggested to the government that they invite the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Summary or Arbitrary Executions and he will be able to investigate some of the incidents.”

She said UN chief Ban Ki-moon had urged states to be “more transparent” about circumstances in which drones are used and take necessary precautions to ensure that the attacks involving drones comply with applicable international law.

“So therefore I stress the importance of investigating such cases and ensuring compensation and redress to the victims.”

Washington releases few details about its covert drone programme in Pakistan but on Wednesday US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta described them as self-defence and promised that they would continue to target al Qaeda in Pakistan.

UN raises concern about Pakistan rights record


The United Nations voiced concern Thursday over allegations of “very grave” rights violations and forced disappearances during Pakistani military operations against insurgents and militants.

Independent watchdogs have accused Pakistani security forces of mass arrests and extra-judicial killings in the southwestern province of Balochistan.

“I am concerned by allegations of very grave violations in the context of counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations,” Pillay told a press conference at the end of a four-day visit to Pakistan.

“These include extrajudicial killings, unacknowledged detention and enforced disappearances.”

She said disappearances in Balochistan had become “a focus for national debate, international attention and local despair” and urged the government and judiciary to investigate and resolve the cases.

She said she regretted not visiting Balochistan and the southern province Sindh, where hundreds of people have been killed in political and ethnic clashes in Karachi this year, without explaining why she had not gone.

“I called for investigations of all this and compensation for victims and of course I am very concerned about what steps can be taken to protect people from these kinds of attacks,” she said.

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Reader Comments (24)

  • Jun 7, 2012 - 6:12PM

    This puts to rest the claim by some that existing UNSC Resolutions on terrorism and/or self-defence somehow legalize US military operations on Pakistani soil.


  • KB
    Jun 7, 2012 - 6:12PM

    Navi, why bother when we’re are least interested ourselves? Shame!


  • Zaikam
    Jun 7, 2012 - 6:39PM

    Its a strange world where killers like Raymond Davis are immune to any law but thousands have been butchered for working against ‘American Interests’.


  • Falcon
    Jun 7, 2012 - 6:45PM

    Oh how is that possible now…I thought U.S. can never be wrong??? or at least that’s what Pakistan’s elite believes in.


  • Pragmatist
    Jun 7, 2012 - 6:50PM

    What an irony ! An Indian-origin South-African citizen is more concerned about Pakistani citizens than Pakistanis themselves !!


  • Sameer Khan
    Jun 7, 2012 - 6:52PM

    Why they didn’t visit Balochistan? Did they come fro sightseeing??.

    …Hope ET will publish this comment. ET hasn’t published my last couple of comments.


  • Nasir
    Jun 7, 2012 - 6:53PM

    We are going to humiliate ourselves when the UN tells us these people were terrorists and not innocent civilians


  • Salman
    Jun 7, 2012 - 6:58PM

    No no no as per the liberals, drones only kill the terrorists…even 3 years old kid is a terrorist according to them


  • Naeem Khan
    Jun 7, 2012 - 6:59PM

    Mush agreed to drone attacks right from 2001 and then Zardari, Gilani and Kiyani all them OKd it and Kiyani even asked for it. It is kind of late for these people to be crying and protesting now while the innocent citizens of Pakistan are being killed and maimed day in and day out.Whoever gave the Noble Peace Prize to Obama should have checked his human rights record, it still bothers me why and for what reason he was awarded with this prize. The pious rhetoric of US has been exposed to the whole world, they were and are involved in torture, extra judicial killings,kidnappings and blackmailing citizens of other countries and some of the recipients of their excesses were and are innocent but were at the wrong place and wrong time.


  • Zeeshan Sheikh
    Jun 7, 2012 - 7:05PM

    But Pakistan human rights activists doesn’t consider tribal people humans because they are working against USA “the innocent Angel” even childrens are pure evil, potential terrorists. oh man what kind of sorcery is this. Blasphemy against USA.


  • gp65
    Jun 7, 2012 - 7:28PM

    @Zaikam: Raymond Davis was let off using Sharia laws on qisas and deeyat


  • Zeeshan
    Jun 7, 2012 - 7:33PM

    What a slap on our corrupt leaders and scum liberals ? Shame


  • Cautious
    Jun 7, 2012 - 7:52PM

    So how does one investigate drone attacks? The one article which most quote when talking about civilian casualties was written in London by people who did nothing but review newspaper accts of attacks. The reality is that the drone attacks take place in territory that Pakistan military doesn’t even operate in freely and it’s unlikely that UN investigators are going to be roaming that territory to ascertain facts.


  • rp
    Jun 7, 2012 - 8:35PM

    drones are a must the Taliban are making propaganda to avoid their killings Pakistanis must realise that drones are must


  • Jun 7, 2012 - 9:15PM

    @Agnostic Muslim: You are stretching language beyond its meaning and I don’t accept that and I imagine no one outside of Pakistan does, either. Ms. Pillay is not denying that UNSCR 1373 is sufficient to authorize U.S. military attacks upon terrorists in Pakistani territory and I support her investigation.


  • Dark Knight
    Jun 7, 2012 - 10:57PM

    For all those who say Indians only wish bad for Pakistan, here is an exception. Yet to see a person of Pakistani origin ever backing India or world community for their plea to Pakistan to uproot terrorist organizations.


  • Jun 7, 2012 - 11:34PM

    Drones attacks are against ate law and it should be stop, other wise it is and it will create more hate and division among us .. USA is the only country who invent enemies and then create fear in their on people and then Rubber stamp UNO allow them to use their weapons industry to destroy the defenseless countries and areas .. and then send them aid by US AID … and our politicians :) we all know who they are .. ..

    Stop Drones and all wars no body has right to declare some one a sub human and experience his latest weapons of killing…



  • Dark Knight
    Jun 8, 2012 - 12:01AM

    @silentvoices: How about going further and saying that drone attacks should be stop, and to get it done lets help USA to eliminate the terrorist networks instead of protecting them as strategic assets ? Why just calling drone attacks illegal ? Is killing of innocents in hands of terrorists legal ? Just because these terrorist are fellow muslims so their act is justified ?


  • You Said It
    Jun 8, 2012 - 2:22AM

    The article has very liberal interpretation of Pillay’s remarks. Pillay didn’t explicitly say that drone strikes violate human rights. She said any indiscriminate killing of civilians would be a violation. She also asked Pakistan to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on Summary or Arbitrary Executions if Pakistan thinks it has a case. Now this Pakistan cannot do this, because the first question that any investigator will ask is: did Pakistan’s army or ISI consent to these attacks?


  • Imran Con
    Jun 8, 2012 - 2:49AM

    How exactly do you intend to investigate deaths when they immediately take the bodies to an undisclosed location? Also, with militants residing there and with their ideology, it doesn’t take much for them to kill children and their families.
    Whether they kill innocents or not, you actually can’t prove it beyond a reasonable doubt so it will just drag on in the media with no results. It also happens in the land of conspiracies aka an area barren of credible witnesses.


  • A2Z
    Jun 8, 2012 - 4:15AM

    @Dark Knight: How about going further and saying that these terrorists were not “terrorists” but “Mujahedeens” when they were fighting against USSR. This is the point which hearts most and due to this nobody want to understand the logic of US. Our elites and pseudo-liberals are one step ahead than US as they are serving uncle Sam more then the uncle Sam himself.


  • A2Z
    Jun 8, 2012 - 4:26AM

    @Cautious: So you are accepting that there is no independent source to confirm the deaths of civilians. Then how do believe when after every drone strike the media publish “(Number) of militants/terrorists killed in drone strike”….oh its because you are hypocrite…


  • Shah ji
    Jun 9, 2012 - 4:51AM

    New York Times published a set of articles last week detailing how Obama classify civilian deaths as Terrorists. Obama argues that the deaths of all “military-aged males”, whether there is proof or not, must be defined as Terrorist Killed

    Any women or children who killed are not considered civilian casualties they are considered Terrorists because they were in the same area. White House believes that civilians death in the past 10 years of war are in, and I quote, “single-digit”. Yes, maybe 5 or 6.

    How did U.S. become so immoral?Recommend

  • Dr.A.Tewari
    Jun 9, 2012 - 8:19PM

    Yes responsibilily of the death of civilians 100% lies with U,S. administration . But in case of Pakistan that can be compunsated as BLOOD MONEY as per Shariya law . They also do not deserve to be delt with UN Law as they do not respect this international body . They hanged Bhutto despite of UN apeal for relaxation . Now US is doing the U


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