Drone strikes violate international law

SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)

Mohammad Jamil
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has been recording drone strikes in North and South Waziristan using credible media reports, field investigations, legal documents and academic research. In a report, released by the organisation on Thursday, it has been stated that more than 350 drone strikes have hit the tribal regions of north-west Pakistan since 2004. The data can be searched by the year and by month. Each entry records the area the strike hit and the date. Researchers also found that “fewer than 4% of those killed have been identified as members of al Qaeda; out of the 2,379 known victims of drone strikes between June 2004 and October 2014, 704 have been identified. Only 295 of these were reported to be members of some kind of armed group”. This report knocks the bottom out of President’s pretense about few civilians killed in drone attacks.
After the Wednesday drone strike, Foreign Office in a statement said: “Pakistan regards such strikes as a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Pakistan also believes that with the decisive action being taken against terrorist elements in North Waziristan, there is no need for such strikes. We, therefore, demand a cessation of such strikes.” Washington has been pressing Islamabad for years to wipe out the sanctuaries in North Waziristan, from where militants allegedly launch attacks on NATO forces in neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan Army launched a full-scale operation ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ on June 15 to cleanse North Waziristan Agency of local and foreign militants. More than 1,000 militants have so far been killed in the operation, and 90 soldiers embraced martyrdom.
Pakistan has been reminding the US that the drone strikes are counter-productive because such attacks cause collateral damage and violate international laws, humanitarian and human rights laws, apart from violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. Last year, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during his visit to Pakistan had stated that the use of armed drones, like any other weapon, should be subject to long-standing rules of international law, including international humanitarian law. In December 2013, National Assembly of Pakistan had unanimously passed a resolution condemning the drone attacks, as these violated the principles of UN Charter, international law and humanitarian norms. The resolution also demanded an immediate halt to drone attacks inside Pakistan. For six months after last drone strike in December 2013, there were no strikes for six months, and CIA resumed drone attacks from June 2014.
Those innocent people being killed, maimed, displaced and terrorized are citizens of Pakistan, but their story has been reduced to a footnote of imperial propaganda by our ‘rational’ metropolitan commentators. To add to the confusion, American leaders conveyed an impression that drone attacks were carried out with the nod from Pakistan government. Such statements paint Pakistan government, military and intelligence agencies in bad light. In keeping with desire and aspirations of the people, Pakistan’s political and military leaderships are on the same page so far as the revulsion against drone strikes is concerned. They have repeatedly asserted that unilateral drone strikes have proved counter-productive and result in stoking anti-American feelings on one hand and tend to create sympathy for the terrorists on the other.
The leading international newspapers and columnists continue to castigate US for its indiscriminate use of drones. Amnesty international (AI) has also denounced use of drones stating that such attacks fall under the ambit of war crimes. UN concerns over legitimacy of drone strikes specifically increased after a group of nations including Russia, China and Pakistan requested action against the use of covert drone strikes. Last year, a fresh area of inquiry explored by London Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed a tragic aspect of deliberate targeting of rescuers and those attending funeral prayers by US drone strikes in Pakistan. The Bureau alleged that follow-up drones were launched when people tried to rescue victims; thus deliberate strikes were carried out on funerals and mourners. Such attacks could be clearly described as war crimes.
In fact, drone attacks raise important ethical and legal questions – questions that have long been debated by proponents and critics alike. Obama administration insisted that drone strikes resulted in few civilian casualties, but the available evidence suggested that civilian casualties from drone strikes were substantial. Indeed, the US has been successful in taking out high profile Al Qaeda leaders, but there is evidence to suggest that hundreds of innocent people have been killed as result of, what they call, a collateral damage.
Of course, Obama’s doctrine allows killing of the residents of the targeted area, as they all are considered combatants, which amounts to making a mockery of international laws. Having that said, the US must abandon its unilateral drone policy in Pakistan and pay heed to the opinion of United Nations over the issue.
It is not in good taste to remind the US – an ally in War on Terror – for having supported her efforts in making Afghanistan a Vietnam for former USSR, for having contributed to making it a sole super power and for joining the war on terror. Had Pakistan not cooperated, the US would have met the same fate inAfghanistan, which it met in Vietnam i.e. ignominious exit.Pakistan must continue to protest against drone strikes and take up the matter with the UN so that the US heeds Pakistani leadership’s repeated calls to stop drone attacks in Pakistan.Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif will visit the US on 16th November 2014, which will be the first visit of COAS after 2010.
According to American media, the US wants to wishes to havemilitary to military relations that existed prior to attack on Abbottabad compound. General Raheel Sharif is likely to take up the drone strike issue with Pentagon, and would insist that if there is any credible information about the local or foreign militants in Waziristan, it should pass on the information to Pakistan. Pakistan has indeed the capacity and capability to eliminate terrorists belonging to any group, as Pakistan has started operation against all militants, and the present military establishment does not differentiate between good or bad Taliban. The operation Zarb-e-Azb is enough evidence of Pakistan military’s intentions. Pakistan wants to see Afghanistan a peaceful and sovereign country. However, other countries of the region should not use their clout in Afghanistan to destabilize Pakistan.


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