Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website], on Tuesday condemned [press release] the December 27 shelling of a funeral procession that killed 21 Yemeni civilians and injured 30 others. The attack resulted in the establishment of an investigation committee by Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which was welcomed by the OHCHR. Various UN human rights experts voiced concern [UN News Centre report] only a day before the December 27 drone strike regarding earlier drone airstrikes that were allegedly conducted by US forces in Yemen. In its statement, the OHCHR urged Yemeni officials to conduct a prompt investigation and to hold those responsible for the drone strike accountable for the deaths and injuries incurred during the attack. The OHCHR has also stated that it will remain in contact with Yemeni officials during the investigation.
The growing use of drones has drawn the attention of the world and become a controversial topic [JURIST backgrounder] in recent months. In October of last year two UN rights experts issued separate reports [JURIST report] to the UN General Assembly calling upon states to increase transparency in the use of drones and to investigate allegations of civilian deaths in drone strikes. Also in October, a report made public by the UN indicated that the US is under-reporting the number of civilian deaths [JURIST report] resulting from anti-terrorism drone strikes. In his investigation, UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson discovered 33 drone attacks that have resulted in approximately 450 civilian deaths in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. This report was made available to the public days after police in Afghanistan reported [JURIST report] the death of five civilians from a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) [official website] counter-terrorism drone strike headed by the US. In May the chief justice of the high court of Peshawar ruled [JURIST report] that US drone strikes in the country are illegal.