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UN Expert Criticizes 'Illegal' Targeted Killings

  • Lisa Schlein

The special investigator on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions criticizes, what he calls illegal targeted killings and calls on the United States to halt CIA drone killings. In the report he has submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, the investigator, Philip Alston also deplores the extensive use of extra-judicial killings in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

UN Special Investigator, Philip Alston says targeted killings increasingly are being used in circumstances, which violate international law.

While more than 40 states already have drone technology, Alston cites the United States as the dominant user of drones to kill.

He says there are circumstances in which targeted killings may be legal. He says they are permitted in situations of armed conflict when used against combatants or civilians who directly participate in hostilities.

"Today, however, such killings are increasingly being used far from any battle zone," said Philip Alston. "The United States, in particular, argues that the "law of 9/11" enables it legally to use force in the territory of any other state against certain terrorists as part of its inherent right to self-defense. This proposition is justified on the basis that it is in an armed conflict with al-Qaida, the Taliban and so-called associated forces."

Alston criticizes the program operated by the US Central Intelligence Agency, which he says does not comply with the law of armed conflict. He says hundreds of people, including innocent civilians, have been killed in CIA drone attacks.

The special investigator warns where the U.S. leads, others will follow. He says the rules the U.S. sets for itself in its particular fight against terrorism, are rules that will be invoked by others.

He says other countries will feel justified in mounting drone attacks in the name of fighting terrorism because that is what the United States is doing.

On another issue, Alston reported to the UN Council on his visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo to investigate extra-judicial killings. He says he met a noted Human Rights Defender, Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, who was shot dead two days ago in the capital Kinshasa.

He says the government has indicated it will conduct an investigation.

"But, I told the Human Rights Council this morning that given the background that we know, there is no reason at all to think that there will be a meaningful investigation of that killing and, particularly, since the circumstances make it look very likely that there was government involvement," he said.

Alston dismisses the government's claim that the Lord's Resistance Army has been eliminated in the DRC and that violations by some members of the armed forces are greatly diminished.

He says hundreds of people continue to be killed, often at the hands of the troops meant to protect them.

Alston says the government has comprehensively dismissed his report as being unfounded. He adds it is always a very bad sign if a government is in a total state of denial.