[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston [official website] said Tuesday that the use of unmanned warplanes by the US to carry out attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan may be illegal. Alston criticized the US policy in a report to the UN General Assembly's human rights committee and then elaborated at a press conference [press release; recorded video]:
My concern is that these drones, these predators, are being operated in a framework which may well violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The onus is really on the government of the United States to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary executions, extrajudicial executions, are not in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons. The response of the US is simply untenable, and that is that the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly by definition have no role in relation to killings that take place in relations to an armed conflict. that would remove the great majority of issues that come before these bodies right now.
Alston's report was presented as part of a larger demand that no state be free from accountability.
Alston previously raised the issue of US drone attacks in June. The US government responded that its position is that such attacks are carried out in a war zone where the UN has no role. The controversial attacks have killed about 600 people in northwestern Pakistan since August 2008, including around 400 militants. US Senator John Kerry said this week that the attacks would continue [RTTNews report], claiming that they have been successful in combatting al Qaeda and have resulted in minimal collateral damage. Also this week, a Pakistani court upheld the dismissal of a petition [The Nation report] against US drone attacks that sought to declare the US an enemy state.