UN says US drones violate Pakistan’s sovereignty
The head of a UN team investigating casualties from US drone strikes in Pakistan declared after a secret research trip to the country that the attacks violate Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Ben Emmerson, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, said the Pakistani government made clear to him that it does not consent to the strikes — a position that has been disputed by U.S. officials.
President Barack Obama has stepped up covert CIA drone strikes targeting al-Qaida and Taliban militants in Pakistan’s tribal region along the Afghan border since he took office in 2009. The strikes have caused growing controversy because of the secrecy surrounding them and claims that they have caused significant civilian casualties — allegations denied by the United States. According to a U.N. statement that Emmerson, the Pakistani government told him it has confirmed at least 400 civilian deaths by US drones on its territory. The statement was initially released on Thursday, following the investigator’s three-day visit to Pakistan, which ended Wednesday. The visit was kept secret until Emmerson left. Imtiaz Gul, an expert on Pakistani militancy who is helping Emmerson’s team, said Friday that the organization he runs, the Centre for Research and Security Studies, gave the UN investigator case studies of 25 strikes that allegedly killed civilians during his visit.
The UN investigation into civilian casualties from drone strikes and other targeted killings in Pakistan and several other countries was launched in January and is expected to deliver its conclusions in October. The US rarely discusses the strikes in public because of their covert nature, but officials have said privately that they have caused very few civilian casualties.
A 2012 investigation by the AP into 10 of the deadliest recent drone strikes in Pakistan found that a significant majority of the casualties were militants, but civilians were also being killed.
Pakistani officials regularly criticize the attacks in public as a violation of the country’s sovereignty, a popular position in a country where anti-American sentiment runs high. But the reality has been more complicated in the past.
For many years, Pakistan allowed U.S. drones to take off from bases within the country. Documents released by WikiLeaks in 2010 showed that senior Pakistani officials consented to the strikes in private to U.S. diplomats, while at the same time condemning them in public.
Cooperation has certainly waned since then as the relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. has deteriorated. In 2011, Pakistan kicked the U.S. out of an air base used by American drones in the country’s southwest, in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
But U.S. officials insist privately that cooperation has not ended altogether, and key Pakistani military officers and civilian.