News / Asia

At UN, Pakistan Calls for End of Drone Use on Its Territory

Margaret Besheer
— Pakistan’s U.N. ambassador has expressed his government’s opposition to the use of drones by the United States inside his country, saying it violates Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Pakistani Ambassador Masood Khan said Friday the use of armed remotely piloted aircraft, commonly called drones, is counterproductive in the war on terror because they kill, injure and psychologically scar civilians and incite terrorists to retaliate.

“Let me state authoritatively, that no explicit or implicit consent, approval, or acquiescence has been given by the government of Pakistan for the use of drone strikes,” he said.

 The envoy was addressing a General Assembly committee meeting, on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism, during which two Special Rapporteurs delivered reports on the use of drones.

“Killing unarmed, innocent civilians is a clear breach of international law. We call for the immediate cessation of drone attacks inside the territorial borders of Pakistan,” said Khan.

Earlier this week, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in a meeting at the White House with U.S. President Barack Obama, called for an end to drone strikes that Washington has used to target al-Qaida and militant figures in Pakistan's tribal areas.

A U.S. representative at the U.N. meeting said Washington has expressed its views on the legal and policy rationale for how it takes direct action against al-Qaida and its associated forces, including with drone strikes.  The delegate noted a May 2013 speech in which President Obama discussed why the use of drones is necessary, legal and just.

In his report, U.N. Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson said if used in strict compliance with international humanitarian law, drones can reduce the risk of civilian casualties in armed conflict. But he expressed concern about a lack of transparency and accountability in drone usage and said there are a number of legal questions on which there is no clear international consensus.

A second Special Rapporteur, Christof Heyns, looked at the issue of extrajudicial killings by drones. He said that while drones are not illegal, they can easily be abused and lead to unlawful loss of life. Heyns said it is crucial that international legal limitations that govern the use of lethal force are strictly observed in the use of drones.

Special Rapporteurs are independent experts appointed by the U.N. secretary-general to investigate allegations of human rights violations.

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