CIA Drones Claim 'License to Kill' with Impunity: UN Expert

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Agence France Presse

CIA Drones Claim 'License to Kill' with Impunity: UN Expert

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UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston. In a new report, Alston has warned that the "prolific" US use of targeted killings, mainly by unmanned aircraft, was setting a damaging example that other countries would follow. (AFP)

GENEVA — A UN human rights expert on Wednesday urged the United
States to sideline the CIA from targeted killings using drones, warning
that the practice amounted to "a license to kill without
accountability".

In a report to the UN Human Rights Council,
Philip Alston, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions,
warned that the "prolific" US use of targeted killings, mainly by
unmanned aircraft, was setting a damaging example that other countries
would follow.

"I?m particularly concerned that the United States
seems oblivious to this fact when it asserts an ever-expanding
entitlement for itself to target individuals across the globe," he told
the 47-member council.

"But this strongly asserted but ill-defined license to kill without accountability is not an entitlement which the
United States or other states can have without doing grave damage to the
rules designed to protect the right to life and prevent extrajudicial
executions."

Alston's study on targeted killings sharply criticized the legal arguments invoked to justify them, their civilian
toll and the involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

"Intelligence
agencies, which by definition are determined to remain unaccountable
except to their own paymasters, have no place in running programs that
kill people in other countries," Alston told the rights council.

Countries
had to demonstrate that they were complying with rules limiting
killings of targeted individuals to those directly involved in fighting,
he underlined.

"The clearest challenge to this principle today
comes from the program operated by the US Central Intelligence Agency
in which targeted killings are carried out from unmanned aerial vehicles
or drones," Alston said.

He warned that hundreds of people had
been killed including innocent civilians yet the CIA criteria for
targeted killings remained shrouded in official secrecy.

"In a
situation in which there is no disclosure of who has been killed, for
what reason, and whether innocent civilians have died, the legal
principle of international accountability is, by definition,
comprehensively violated," he added.

The United States is
conducting drone attacks in Afghanistan and in a covert manner in
Pakistan's northwestern tribal belt, where officials say Islamist
extremists hatch attacks on troops fighting in Afghanistan and on cities
abroad.

Alston contrasted CIA practice with the US military,
praising an army investigation that this week blamed human error for the
death of 23 civilians in a drone-borne missile attack in Afghanistan in
February.

"While it is by no means perfect, the US military has a
relatively public accountability process," he said.

The incident
sparked widespread anger at the presence of international troops in
Afghanistan, and an apology from the commander of NATO forces in the
country.

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