(MintPress) – Accusations that U.S. drone strikes in the Middle East and Africa are killing innocent civilians were at the forefront of discussions at the United National Human Rights Council meetings, held this week in Geneva, Switzerland. The accusations come in the midst of reports that U.S. assassination strikes in Somalia aimed at al-Shabab, the […]
(MintPress) – Accusations that U.S. drone strikes in the Middle East and Africa are killing innocent civilians were at the forefront of discussions at the United National Human Rights Council meetings, held this week in Geneva, Switzerland.
The accusations come in the midst of reports that U.S. assassination strikes in Somalia aimed at al-Shabab, the anti-government militia, killed up to 35 people. Press TV, citing witnesses, claimed the attacks killed a mix of al-Shabab seniors and civilians in close proximity. No other news organizations carried this report.
If reports that secondary U.S. drone strikes killing rescue workers are true, United Nations reporter Christof Heyns is alleging that U.S. could be guilty of war crimes and the rollback of 50 years of international law, according to a report by The Guardian.
Heyns gathered with other U.N. reporters from around the world for a conference, organized in part by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), to discuss the controversial role of U.S. drone strikes in the fight against terror, which are said to be responsible for the of killing innocent women and children.
Heyns was not alone in his views, as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said during the open-session he was concerned over whether strikes aimed at potential terrorists were also killing non-combatants.
Pillay said it was “unclear that all persons targeted are combatants or directly participating in hostilities,” according to an ACLU press release.
The U.S. has been under fire by critics who say drone strikes only intensify the fight among terrorists, especially those living in nations that have been hit hardest by the strikes. While drone attacks have killed noted terrorists, reports out of Afghanistan and Pakistan detail cases in which non-combatants fell victim to the air strikes.
Haykal Bafana, a Yemeni lawyer, tweeted a message to President Barack Obama May 11, in which he stated, “Dear Obama, when a US drone missile kills a child in Yemen, the father will go to war with you, guaranteed. Nothing to do with Al Qaeda.”
Numbers for reported civilian deaths due to drone strikes vary from source to source. The U.S.-based think tank, The New America, reports drones strikes in Pakistan killed up to 315 Pakistani civilians from 2006 to 2009. Chief Counter Terrorism Official John Brennan said in a speech last year that no civilians had been killed during the last year of drone strikes, according to the New York Times.
In November, 2011, air strikes accidentally killed 20 Pakistani soldiers, a move that enraged the Pakistani government, resulting in the closure to U.S. forces of a supply route to Afghanistan.
In response to the global confusion over civilian drone deaths, ACLU National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi is urging the U.N. Human Rights Council to put pressure on the U.S. “to provide transparency and accountability in its targeted killing program.”
“The United States has cobbled together its own legal framework for targeted killing, with standards that are far less stringent than the law allows,” Shamsi said in a press release. “Senior U.S. government officials have claimed self-defense and law of war authority to target and ill suspected terrorists in states with which and in which the United States is not at war, based on largely secret legal criteria, entirely secret evidence, and a secret process.”
Shamsi went on to say that the U.S. drone strikes could set a dangerous precedent in the world, allowing other countries to disregard international law which prohibits the killing of noncombatants. While the U.S. has not formally respond, it has previously taken the stance that terrorists in which they deal with do not play by the rules of international law, either.
Other nations echoed the sentiment of Shamsi, including Switzerland, which submitted a statement encouraging the U.S. to respect international law, insinuating that the drone strikes were in violation of such.
The 20th session of the Human Rights Council is scheduled to continue through July 6; it began June 18.