UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism Ben Emmerson announced [press release, PDF] on Thursday that he will begin investigating the legality of the use of drone strikes. Emmerson said that after asking the US to allow an independent investigation [JURIST report] of its use of targeted killings last year, there is still no consensus among the international community as to the legality of the conduct. He stated an investigation by the UN was necessary in order to establish clear international guidelines on the use of this and other emerging technology:
The exponential rise in the use of drone technology in a variety of military and non-military contexts represents a real challenge to the framework of established international law and it is both right as a matter of principle, and inevitable as a matter of political reality, that the international community should now be focussing attention on the standards applicable to this technological development, particularly its deployment in counterterrorism and counter-insurgency initiatives, and attempt to reach a consensus on the legality of its use, and the standards and safeguards which should apply to it.The investigation will study the motivations of the nations using the drones as well as the effects felt in the nations where the attacks were carried out. Emmerson said he would present his findings to the General Assembly in fall of 2013.
The use of drone strikes by the US has come under scrutiny in recent months. Earlier this month Pakistan's Foreign Affairs Minister Hina Rabbani Khar condemned US drone attacks [JURIST report] as a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and international law. Last month the Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] a lawsuit challenging the US government's targeted killing of three US citizens in drone strikes. In July Pakistan's Ambassador to the US called upon the US to end the practice [JURIST report] of using drone strikes in targeted killings. That same month US lawmakers expressed concern [JURIST report] over the use of drone strikes. JURIST Guest Columnist Samar Warsi of the Muslim Civil Liberties Union recently argued that Obama administration's drone policy sets a dangerous precedent [JURIST comment] and undermines national security.