U.N. envoy to probe lethal force by U.S.
NEW YORK — The U.N. specialist on illegal executions plans to probe the use of deadly force by U.S. troops and military contractors in Iraq when he visits the United States next spring.
Asked whether he also planned to visit Iraq to look into ethnic cleansing and militia killings there, human rights rapporteur Philip Alston said he saw no point because his movements would be too severely restricted by security concerns.
Mr. Alston said he plans to investigate whether U.S. military and criminal justice systems are properly trying soldiers who kill Iraqis and Afghans in U.S. custody.
He said he also was concerned by contractors’ use of force in Iraq, where several investigations are under way into charges that employees of Blackwater USA and other companies have fired indiscriminately, killing innocent civilians. The contractors are largely protected from Iraqi laws and none have been tried in U.S. courts.
“That’s clearly an issue which I would want to look at insofar as executions are involved, and obviously in the Blackwater case recently, they are,” Mr. Alston said Oct. 26, after briefing the U.N. General Assembly’s committee on human rights.
Mr. Alston, an Australian national, said his request to visit had been affirmed by American authorities, but he had not yet set up a schedule of places to visit or people to see.
The U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, as Mr. Alston is known, is more likely to investigate honor killings, mass executions or blackmasked death squads than it is uniformed government soldiers.
Nonetheless, a U.S. representative at the Oct. 26 meeting of the socalled Third Committee, which deals with economic, social and human rights issues, said the Bush administration welcomes Mr. Alston’s visit. The representative, Leaksmy Norin, noted that assigning responsibility in an armed conflict could be legally complex.
Human rights experts previously have visited the United States to investigate inconsistencies in the use of the death penalty, the treatment of women in prison and freedom of religion, among other issues.
Although he reports to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, Mr. Alston — who also serves as the director of the New York University Center for Human Rights and Global Justice — stressed that he sets his own agenda and chooses which countries he would like to visit.