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UN Expert: US Drone Rationalization Justifies al Qaeda Use of Force Against US

"If it is lawful for the US to drone al Qaeda associates wherever they find them, then it is also lawful for al Qaeda to target US military or infrastructure wherever (militants) find them," said Ben Emmerson

Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Not only do US drone strikes on Pakistan violate international law, the US' rationalization of these strikes may have legalized al Qaeda's use of force in its fight against the US, according to one UN investigator. 

Ben Emmerson, special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, explained to CNN's Nic Robertson the ramifications of the framework the US has used to legitimize its strikes.

"If it is lawful for the U.S. to drone al Qaeda associates wherever they find them, then it is also lawful for al Qaeda to target U.S. military or infrastructure where ever (militants) find them," Emmerson told Robertson.

"There is a real risk that by promulgating the analysis that is currently being developed and relied up by the United States they legitimize, in international law, al Qaeda, by turning it in to an armed belligerent involved in a war and that makes the use of force by al Qaeda and its associates lawful," said Emmerson.

Emmerson added that "The consequence of drone strikes has been to radicalize an entirely new generation," echoing his previous statement that "Pakistan has also been quite clear that it considers the drone campaign to be counter-productive and to be radicalising a whole new generation."

Following a fact-finding visit to Pakistan in March, Emmerson stated that the drone strikes were  "a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity."  He continued:

In a direct challenge to the suggested legal justification for these strikes, the Government of Pakistan has also made it quite clear during these discussions that any suggestion that it is ‘unwilling or unable’ to combat terrorism on its own territory is not only wrong, but is an affront to the many Pakistani victims of terrorism who have lost their lives.

Based on its direct knowledge of local conditions, Pakistan aims to a sustainable counter-terrorism strategy that involves dialogue and development in this complex region and that tackles not only the manifestations of terrorism but also its root causes.

The people of Pakistan need to be given room to develop this strategy. The Pashtun tribes of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have suffered enormously under the drone campaign. 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. Their tribal structures have been broken down by the military campaign in FATA and by the use of drones in particular.

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.

The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that as many as 3,586 Pakistanis have been killed by US drone strikes since 2004, with as many as 884 of those identified as civilians.

The Bureau's Naming the Dead project, launched in February, attempts to at least partially lift the veil of secrecy surrounding the US drone war by identifying as many of the covert war's victims in Pakistan as possible.

"In the face of official secrecy, having the full facts about who is killed is essential for an informed debate about the effectiveness and ethics of the drone campaign," stated Christopher Hird, managing editor of the Bureau.


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