Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan of the High Court of Peshawar ruled Thursday that US drone strikes in the region are illegal. The justice also directed Pakistan's Foreign Ministry [official website] to introduce a resolution against such attacks in the UN. The decision stems from a lawsuit filed by the Foundation for Fundamental Rights [advocacy website] on behalf of those who have had family members killed in a drone strike. Khan said the drone strikes should be declared a war crime and that Pakistan should consider breaking diplomatic ties [PTI report] with the US if it vetoes its resolution in the UN. US officials maintain that the drone strikes target al Qaeda and Taliban fighters [Independent report] who are responsible for cross-border attacks in Afghanistan and that the Pakistani has condoned strikes.
The use of drone strikes by the US has come under scrutiny in recent months. In March a federal appeals court judge in the US reversed [JURIST report] a ruling on CIA drone strikes and held that the CIA must respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] claim filed by the American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] requesting records on the CIA's drone program. Also in March Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter [JURIST report] to Senator Rand Paul suggesting that a drone strike on US soil would be legal only in extraordinary circumstances, following a lengthy filibuster by the senator in the confirmation of John Brennan as CIA director. In January UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson announced that he will begin investigating [JURIST report] the legality of the use of drone strikes. Following a request to allow an independent investigation [JURIST report] into the use of targeted killings last year, Emmerson stated that there is still non consensus among the international community as to the legality of the conduct. Also in January Pakistan's Foreign Affairs Minister condemned [JURIST report] US drone attacks as a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and international law. In December the US 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.