A senior United Nations official is planning to
call on the US to end aerial drone attacks by the Central Intelligence
Agency against alleged al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan, according to the New
The call is expected to come next week, a report in the US
newspaper's website said on Friday.
Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on
extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said on Thursday that he
will deliver a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, arguing
that the "life and death power" of drones should be executed by regular
armed forces rather than intelligence agencies.
Alston's recommendations, which are expected to be delivered in a
June 3 report, are not legally binding.
He argues that conventional military forces are
more accountable than intelligence agencies for investigating civilian
"With the defence department you've got maybe not perfect but quite
abundant accountability as demonstrated by what happens when a bombing
goes wrong in Afghanistan," Alston said.
"The whole process that follows is very open. Whereas if the CIA is
doing it, by definition they are not going to answer questions, not
provide any information, and not do any follow-up that we know about."
Under international law, soldiers representing conventional
militaries are allowed to kill enemy troops in war zones.
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The government of George Bush, the previous US president, issued a
policy manual in 2007 which defined "murder in violation of the laws of
war" as killing someone who did not meet "the requirements for lawful
These requirements include being part of a regular army or otherwise
wearing a uniform.
to this definition of murder, CIA drone operators, who do not wear the
uniforms of conventional soldiers, could theoretically be considered war
criminals and subject to prosecution in Pakistani courts.
Paul Weiss, a CIA spokeswoman, said that the "agency's operations
take place in a framework of both law and government oversite".
"It would be wrong to suggest the CIA is not accountable," he said,
although she refused to discuss or confirm specific activities.
By some accounts, drone attacks - which reportedly commence at CIA
headquarters in Langley, Virginia - have increased during president
Barack Obama's time in office.
The Long War Journal, a blog that uses open-source information to
track US operations in the Middle East, tallied five US aerial attacks
in Pakistan in 2007 and 36 in 2008.
In 2009, Obama's first year in office, aerial attacks increased 47
per cent to 53, with unmanned drones responsible for most strikes.