The Peshawar High Court declared U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal belt illegal Thursday and ordered the government to initiate a resolution against the attacks in the United Nations.
The court issued the ruling in response to four petitions that contended the attacks killed civilians. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, CIA-led drone strikes have killed 400 to 900 Pakistani civilians and more than 160 children. The real number is likely much higher as the U.S. government recognizes as militants all males of military age killed within a combat zone until they are posthumously proven otherwise.
Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan ruled the strikes illegal, inhumane and a violation of the U.N. charter on human rights, The Independent reported. The court declared the strikes must be recognized as war crimes because they kill innocent people.
“The government of Pakistan must ensure that no drone strike takes place in the future,” the court said, according to the Press Trust of India. “If the US vetoes the [United Nations] resolution, then the country should think about breaking diplomatic ties with the US,” the judgment said.
U.S. officials say the strikes target al-Qaida and Taliban fighters who launch cross-border attacks in Afghanistan from Pakistan’s tribal regions and that the drone actions are ordered with the blessing of Pakistan’s military.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
The case was filed last year by the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, a legal charity based in Islamabad, on behalf of the families of victims killed in a 17 March 2011 strike on a tribal jirga.
The jirga, a traditional community dispute resolution mechanism, had been called to settle a chromite mining dispute in Datta Khel, North Waziristan. This strike killed more than 50 tribal elders, including a number of government officials. There was strong condemnation of this attack by all quarters in Pakistan including the federal government and Pakistan military.
Shahzad Akbar, lawyer for victims in the case, said: “This is a landmark judgment. Drone victims in Waziristan will now get some justice after a long wait. This judgment will also prove to be a test for the new government: if drone strikes continue and the government fails to act, it will run the risk of contempt of court.”
Stephen D. Melkisethian (CC BY-ND 2.0)
A protest against the government’s use of drone strikes is displayed in Washington, D.C., in March.