UN Urges Transparency over US Drone Deaths
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - The United Nations said that at least 450 civilians may have been killed by US drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen, a figure which the US has previously downplayed.
A UN report, obtained by Al Jazeera, stated that Pakistan’s government had confirmed at least 400 civilian deaths as a result of US drone strikes, in stark contrast to what US officials had publicly acknowledged previously.
The report found that one of the major obstacles in obtaining accurate figures on civilian deaths was the lack of transparency by the countries involved, which has prompted a cauldron of legal issues that are yet to be addressed by UN-member states.
"This report aims to present the facts as clearly and objectively as possible. I have had good co-operation from most of the states involved, and I very much hope that this continues during the second phase of the inquiry when I will be aiming to get answers to some of the most difficult questions and putting allegations about particular drone strikes to the states responsible, and asking them to provide their own version of the facts," Ben Emmerson, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism and author of the report, told Al Jazeera.
"This issue is clearly not going to go away, and I will continue asking the difficult questions for as long as it takes," he added.
As there were, or appear to be, reported cases of civilian deaths, the report states that the US has a legal obligation to launch its own impartial investigation and provide a public explanation because of its duty to protect civilians in an armed conflict.
The US, however, has not released any casualty figures so far from its CIA-led drone programme, especially in Pakistan and Yemen, but the spy agency has acknowledged that the figures were in “single digits”, according to media reports.
The report, which is to be presented to the UN General Assembly on October 25, recommends that the UN member-states implement strict compliance to international humanitarian law and identifies a number of legal questions on the on the usage of drones which currently has no international consensus.
It also urged the US to be more transparent with its information on the drone campaign to ascertain the resultant civilian deaths.
In August, US Secretary of State John Kerry told Pakistan state TV that drone strikes in the country could end soon as the threat of insurgency recedes. Pakistani government records estimate at least 2,200 deaths in drone strikes since 2004.
The report also indicated that at least 50 civilians were also killed in strikes on Afghanistan and Yemen.
The Special Rapporteur intends to submit a final report on his findings from the inquiry to the Human Rights Council in 2014.