UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism Ben Emmerson told reporters on Sunday that the US government must allow an independent investigation of the legality of its drone strike policy. The US has received heavy criticism recently for its use of drone strikes to attack targets in the War on Terror [JURIST news archive]. Emmerson criticized the US for its policy of defending the legality of drone strikes in general while declining to officially confirm that it is responsible for recent attacks. He said the US must expose its program to international scrutiny [Independent report] in order evaluate the legality of the strikes, which some have argued violate the sovereignty of foreign states and are potential war crimes. Emmerson said it was impossible to evaluate the legality of the attacks until the US acknowledged their existence and allowed an investigation into their use.
International concern about the US use of drone strikes to attack foreign targets has risen in the past year. Pakistan Ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman last month called on the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to stop using drone strikes [JURIST report], saying that she believes the use of unilateral drone attacks violates international human rights laws and standards. Also in July, US lawmakers called on Congress and the Department of Homeland Security to address safety and security concerns [JURIST report] with the use of drone attacks domestically and to determine how to regulate their use. Earlier that month, rights groups filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] suing the US government for killing three US citizens using drone strikes. The UN last month also criticized [JURIST report] the US government's use of drone attacks, saying some attacks could constitute war crimes. A few days earlier, a UN official said the US government failed to answer [JURIST report] any of his questions regarding its use of drone attacks and noted that in the past the US has failed to provide a justification for the legality of these attacks under international law.