U.S. drone strikes violate Pakistan's sovereignty: U.N.

UNITED NATIONS Fri Mar 15, 2013 8:54pm EDT

A U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator, unmanned aerial vehicle, armed with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, performs a low altitude pass during the Aviation Nation 2005 air show at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada in this November 13, 2005 USAF handout photo obtained by Reuters February 6, 2013. REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Jeffrey Hall/Handout

A U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator, unmanned aerial vehicle, armed with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, performs a low altitude pass during the Aviation Nation 2005 air show at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada in this November 13, 2005 USAF handout photo obtained by Reuters February 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Jeffrey Hall/Handout

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States has violated Pakistan's sovereignty and shattered tribal structures with unmanned drone strikes in its counterterrorism operations near the Afghan border, a U.N. human rights investigator said in a statement on Friday.

U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, Ben Emmerson, visited Pakistan for three days this week as part of his investigation into the civilian impact of the use of drones and other forms of targeted killings.

"As a matter of international law, the U.S. drone campaign in Pakistan is ... being conducted without the consent of the elected representatives of the people, or the legitimate Government of the State," Emmerson said in a statement issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.

"It involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty," he said.

Emmerson said in January he would investigate 25 drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories. He is expected to present his final report to the U.N. General Assembly in October.

Washington had little to say about Emmerson's statement.

"We've seen his press release. I'm obviously not going to speak about classified information here," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. "We have a strong ongoing counterterrorism dialogue with Pakistan and that will continue."

Spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House would withhold judgment until it sees Emmerson's full report.

"We have a solid working relationship with them (Pakistan) on a range of issues, including a close cooperative security relationship, and we're in touch with them on a regular basis on those issues."

'END MILITARY INTERFERENCE'

Emmerson said the Pashtun tribes of northwestern Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, Pakistan's largely lawless region bordering Afghanistan, have been decimated by the counterterrorism operations.

"These proud and independent people have been self-governing for generations, and have a rich tribal history that has been too little understood in the West," he said. "Their tribal structures have been broken down by the military campaign in FATA and by the use of drones in particular."

The tribal areas have never been fully integrated into Pakistan's administrative, economic or judicial system. They are dominated by ethnic Pashtun tribes, some of which have sheltered and supported militants over decades of conflict in neighboring Afghanistan.

Clearing out militant border sanctuaries is seen by Washington as crucial to bringing stability to Afghanistan, particularly as the U.S.-led combat mission ends in 2014.

Most, but not all, attacks with unmanned aerial vehicles have been by the United States. Britain and Israel have also used them, and dozens of other countries are believed to possess the technology.

"It is time for the international community to heed the concerns of Pakistan, and give the next democratically elected government of Pakistan the space, support and assistance it needs to deliver a lasting peace on its own territory without forcible military interference by other states," Emmerson said.

The U.N. Human Rights Council asked Emmerson to start an investigation of the drone attacks following requests by countries including Pakistan, Russia and China.

Criticism of drone strikes centers on the number of civilians killed and the fact that they are launched across sovereign states' borders so frequently, far more than conventional attacks by piloted aircraft.

Retired U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, who devised the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, warned in January against overusing drones, which have provoked angry demonstrations in Pakistan.

Civilian casualties from drone strikes have angered local populations and created tension between the United States and Pakistan and Afghanistan. Washington has sought to portray civilian casualties as minimal, but groups collecting data on these attacks say they have killed hundreds of civilians.

(Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria and Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (16)
ChicagoFats wrote:
The concept of Afghanistan as a unified nation is largely a Western concept (although Russia fell prey to it for a while also). We are not going to pacify Afghanistan on our terms unless we wipe out the entire population. My point is that trying to eradicate border sanctuaries for militants is a fruitless task as they will just move elsewhere within Afghanistan. And, in the meantime, we make bitter enemies of the Pashtun and any other tribes caught up in our cross-border drone attacks.

This is not a winnable situation. Surely the brass in the Pentagon can see that. Will no one summon up the grit to tell the emperor that he has no clothes?

Mar 15, 2013 9:56pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
boreal wrote:
Address the grievances earnestly; why Muslims and Palestinians are willing to sacrifice their lives. What moves them to such extremes? Then try to solve the problem without weapons, endless costly wars, millions of uprooted homeless refugees, rivers of blood.

Mar 15, 2013 10:25pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Cleveland2012 wrote:
Al Jazeera ran a segment yesterday that talked about three men who were killed by a drone as they were moving a sheep to market. This was in Afghanistan. Their families went to the local Army base and received a payment for the deaths of their loved ones. The problem here is that most Americans just do not care what happens in the use of drones. This drone war reflects badly on the President of the United States, and it reflects badly on America as a whole. If an ounce of common sense were present, then one could see that the the green on blue killings are linked to our cavalier use of drones to kill Afghans and Pakistanis. A lot of innocent bystanders are being killed in tribal societies. The rest of the tribe is going to go crazy with revenge when we kill people for no reason. This expanded use of drones needs to be curtailed if we want to have any hope of stabilizing Afghanistan. It should have been severely limited from the very start. We have nurtured a strategic failure of immense proportions. And, by the way, it is illegal.

Mar 15, 2013 11:07pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.