The U.N. criticized the Obama administration for its drone wars and discussed the “rapidly expanding militarised use of remotely piloted aircraft and the fraught international legal issues that it raises,” The Guardian reports. It was the first such meeting between member nations on drone use.
The U.S. government was defensive at the meeting, telling the organization that drone strikes as they currently occur are “necessary, legal and just.” Brazil, China and Venezuela were among the countries that condemned President Obama. The meeting followed 10 days of inquiry into the legality of drones by media and professional groups. Two U.N. reports sharply condemned aspects of U.S. drone use.
The authors of the two reports addressed Friday’s UN debate, beginning with Christof Heyns, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. His study warned of the danger of proliferation of the un-piloted weapons among states and terrorist groups.
… [H]e added that drones were easy to deploy across international borders, often secretly. “So it is my view that although they are not illegal, they do pose a challenge, particularly as they are used often in secret, raising accountability issues.”
The accountability theme was picked up by the second UN expert, Ben Emmerson, the special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism. His ongoing investigation into lethal extra-territorial counter-terrorism operations has concluded that the 33 drone strikes that are known to have caused civilian casualties may have been carried out in violation of international law.
He told the assembled nations that lack of transparency was “the single greatest obstacle to an evaluation of the civilian impact of drone strikes and it’s a challenge which makes it extremely difficult to assess claims of precision targeting objectively”.