UN Human Rights Council Blasts US for Killing Civilians, Drone Attacks and Using Mercenaries

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UN Human Rights Council Blasts US for Killing Civilians, Drone Attacks and Using Mercenaries

The UN group is also calling on the US to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate crimes by US officials.

by
Jeremy Scahill

UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Philip Alston in Nairobi in February. (AFP/File/Tony Karumba)

The UN Human Rights Council has issued a report blasting the US for killing civilians, violating human rights and creating a “zone of impunity” for unaccountable private contractors to fight its wars. The UN group also criticized the US use of drones to attack Pakistan. The report, released this week was authored by Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

“First, the government has failed to track and make public the number of civilian casualties, or the conditions under which deaths occurred,” he said. “Second, the military justice system fails to provide ordinary people, including U.S. citizens and families of Iraqi and Afghan victims, basic information on the status of investigations into civilian casualties or prosecutions resulting therefrom.”

Alston called on the US to establish a national commission to investigate the killing of civilians and for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to criminally investigate government officials accused of crimes.

“The government has failed to effectively investigate and punish lower-ranking soldiers for such deaths, and has not held senior officers responsible,” Alston said. “Worse, it has effectively created a zone of impunity for private contractors and civilian intelligence agents by only rarely investigating and prosecuting them.”

On the issue of drone attacks, Alston said, “Targeted killings carried out by drone attacks on the territory of other states are increasingly common and remain deeply troubling… The U.S. government should disclose the legal basis for such killings and identify any safeguards designed to reduce collateral civilian casualties and ensure that the government has targeted the correct person.”

According to Reuters:

 

U.S. diplomat Lawrence Richter objected to Alston’s remarks, saying the U.N. investigator did not have the mandate to cover military and intelligence operations related to armed conflict.

Richter told the Human Rights Council that the United States has an extensive legal framework to respond to unlawful killings and is doing all it can to provide information about the deaths that occur in its armed conflicts.

Alston, who is an Australian law professor, visited the United States last year, before Obama became president.

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