In what could possibly be the first legal challenge to the hitherto uncontested drone strikes, the Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Thursday declared the attacks “naked aggression against the country” and ordered the government to raise the issue at the United Nations Security Council.
The drone strikes “are held to be a war crime, cognizable under the international court of justice or a special tribunal for war crimes,” read the judgment, quoting civilian casualties and, damage to property, livestock and wildlife an inexcusable crime on part of the United States and its Central Intelligence Agency.
The PHC bench, comprising Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan and Justice Musarrat Hilali, gave the order while admitting four different petitions filed by Noor Khan, FM Sabir, Defence of Pakistan Council and the Foundation for Fundamental Rights.
Terming US drone strikes in North and South Waziristan Agencies a blatant violation of basic human rights, the UN Charter, UN General Assembly resolutions and provisions of the Geneva Convention, the court ordered the government to take all possible measures to halt the attacks.
“The government and security forces shall ensure that in future such drone strikes are not carried out within the sovereign territory of Pakistan. Proper warning shall be administered to the US in this regard. If that does not work, the government and state institutions, particularly security forces, shall be obligated to shut down drone attacks on Pakistani territory,” the bench ordered.
Taking a step further, the court also directed the government to take up the matter at the UN Security Council through an urgent meeting of the General Assembly.
The court added if the move to highlight the matter was vetoed or “in case the US does not comply with UN resolutions, the government shall sever ties with the US and, as a mark of protest, deny all logistic and other facilities to the US within Pakistan.”
The court observed that in view of established facts, civilian casualties were a result of the drone strikes and therefore the US government was bound to compensate victims’ families in US dollars.
The court also observed drone attacks were carried out against a handful of alleged militants who were not engaged in combat with the US, and claimed this amounted to a breach of international laws and conventions.
Quoting Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter, which calls for all members to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, the judges noted the aggression was being undertaken on the whims of US defence and intelligence bodies without taking Pakistan into confidence.
The court also said loss of life and property was strictly prohibited, not only by UN Charter, but also by the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Article 3 and Article 52 (1) and (2) of additional protocol stated targeted killing is lawful only when the target is a “combatant” or “fighter” or, in case of a civilian, a person “directly participating in hostilities”.
The bench noted since the president, prime minister and parliament had already condemned the strikes, the only option left to be exercised was to give an effective rejoinder through the UN.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2013.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ