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Pakistan civilians seek arrest of ex-CIA legal counsel for drone attacks

Three Pakistani men filed a complaint on Monday seeking to arrest former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] legal counsel for authorizing unmanned predator drone strikes [JURIST news archive]. The complaint alleges [Reuters report] that former General Counsel to the CIA John Rizzo approved the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to carry out drone strikes and admitted to doing so in a February Newsweek interview [text]. The aerial attacks target al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] and Taliban [CFR backgrounder] militants, but civilians are often killed or injured in the collateral damage. The complaint also seeks an international warrant for Rizzo's arrest.

The Obama administration has defended [JURIST report] its use of targeted killings, specifically those made by unmanned predator drone strikes. State Department Legal Adviser [official website] Harold Koh [academic profile] has said the drones "comply with all applicable law" because they target only military targets and enable minimal damage to civilians and civilian structures. UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston [official website] noted in October 2009 that the use of unmanned drones by the US to carry out attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan may be illegal [JURIST report]. In January 2006, then-Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf [BBC profile] contended that the US violated its sovereignty [JURIST report] in an air strike on a village near the Afghanistan border. The failed January 13 attack [Gulf Times report] by a CIA Predator drone was intended for key al Qaeda operatives but killed 18 Pakistani villagers.

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