Drones, Pakistan & international law

Published: February 18, 2015
The writer heads the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad

The writer heads the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad

The American CIA’s actions involving the use of drones are a contravention of the due process of law but this modern weapon remains the preferred choice of the American security establishment. The element of justice is missing altogether from this kind of warfare because the CIA never contacts a court for action against perceived enemies.

Making a case against drones as a violation of international law at an international counterterrorism conference at Geneva (February 16), Jean-Francois Fechino, director at the International Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights, said drones have invaded our skies and homes and will probably continue to do so.

The international conference drew several dozen leaders, security experts and officials from all over to discuss how a cooperative international effort could strengthen the rule of law and reinstate basic human rights principles, while performing counterterrorism activities.

The conference was informed that 364 of the 415 drone strikes (until early February 2015) on targets inside Pakistani territory had killed nearly 4,000, including over 1000 civilians, mostly women and children. A case study of 24 such strikes by the Centre for Research and Security Studies, too, had exposed the extremely disproportionate civilian harm caused by these attacks which increased seven-fold under the Obama Administration.

A petition filed with the Peshawar High Court in 2012 had quoted the instance of drone strikes in North Waziristan, where it said only 47 of 896 civilians killed until December 2012 were foreigners.

The conference was also reminded of the March 11, 2013 ruling by the Peshawar High Court which said that “drone strikes, carried out in the tribal areas (Fata) particularly North and South Waziristan by the CIA and US Authorities, are blatant violation of Basic Human Rights and are against the UN Charter, the UN General Assembly Resolution, adopted unanimously, the provision of Geneva Conventions thus, it is held to be a War Crime, cognisable by the International Court of Justice or Special Tribunal for War Crimes, constituted or to be constituted by the UNO for this purpose.”

But participants generally agreed that despite criticism by the UN and the European Commission on Human Rights, watchdogs such as the Amnesty International and Reprieve, the CIA has continued using drones against targets inside Pakistan.

This has consequently subverted the principle of rule of law, eroded common peoples’ trust in slogans such as democracy and limited access to justice. The ambiguity of the Pakistani government and the absence of accountability and transparency in the use of drones has also prevented the establishment of a compensatory mechanism for the families of the innocent victims.

Assuming that geopolitics — guided by the overarching by the US and European corporate sector’s interest and limitations of a country such as Pakistan — will always trump international and national humanitarian law, one can only hope that the Pakistani state at some stage takes a categorical position against drones, and lobbies with other likeminded states to push for an accountable and transparent counterterrorism mechanism.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • John B
    Feb 18, 2015 - 3:03AM

    Other than being a part of PAK map, PAK state writ does not exist in North and South Waziristan. Expecting international community to ignore these facts and let the terrorism run wild will be illogical. The recent F-16 bombing operations by PAK in NW do not make it legal either by international law and the casualties are equally high in these operations.

    Drones are here to stay, and as the technological guru of drone, the US will exploit the drone use fully in war as force multiplier. Not doing so will be against the US interest. The US has domestic and UN authorization to proceed against the imminent threat, as she sees fit. Instead of asking the international legality of drone operations, it would be wise to ask why there are drone strikes in Waziristan.

    If it is not drone, it would be US bombers and cruise missiles inside PAK. No one ever asks the legality of international terrorists and suicide bombers coming from these regions. Why?

    Civilian casualty is unavoidable in a urban war zone, and that is the nature of this new warfare. No one fights in the desert frontier lines under established rules. The wake of swat operation and Recent Waziristan operation by PAK army, and the Syrian, Libyan, and ISIS conflicts also tell the same story. We are in low intensity WW III spanning almost every continent and the crucible of this conflict is Afg-PAK border. The dynamics is going to change once the ISIS consolidates its goal, and we all know where they are heading! So, drone will be everywhere. Recommend

  • Cool Henry
    Feb 18, 2015 - 5:26AM

    Only if there was normal trade, commerce, travel and tourism between Afghanistan, India and Pakistan would there be peace in the region as masses would not tolerate militants and their shenanigans. But, we don’t have that and that leaves a fertile ground for militants to ply their trade. And innocent, men, women and children pay the ultimate price.Recommend

  • Sexton Blake
    Feb 18, 2015 - 5:40PM

    @John B:
    Dear John,
    I will attempt to expand on what you have written, although when I get too deeply into US/Zionist mendacity ET will not print me. It is OK to use hysterical nomenclature against so called terrorists, but not against greedy Westerners who roam around the Islamic world trying to determine what new mischief they can create. In spite of the fact that it is OK for the Western media to endlessly repeat the sins of Muslims in lurid terms, it is not OK to use the same type of nomenclature in regard to the West who are the good guys even though they have ensured that about three million people are no longer with us after their so called humanitarian activities over the last twelve years or so. However, you are correct in that civilian casualties in warfare are a fact of life, and the US/UK bombing of hundreds of German cities in WWII determined this simple fact. The big problem we have nowadays is that they have never stopped, and currently Libya, Syria Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine are evidence of this. I cannot go into too much detail, but people really should read up on PNAC (Project for The New American Century. It will make it clear just what the Americans are up to, and a few radicalised militants created in Pakistan are the least of Pakistan’s, and the World’s, problems. Alternatively, just go back to 2001 when George Bush invaded Afghanistan and follow the ongoing debacle America created then and which still in full fury over much of the sub-continent despite President Obama stating in so many words: “mission accomplished”. As you said WWIII is alive and well.Recommend

  • woody
    Feb 18, 2015 - 9:39PM

    The American CIA’s actions involving the use of drones are a contravention of the due process of law
    The USA would love to put boots on the ground and attempt to take these people alive – Pakistan said no. As such – drones aren’t much different than your F-16s or artillery which also deny their victims “due process”.Recommend

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