U.S. drone use challenged in court

On March 17, 2011 at least 42 people were killed by a United States drone strike in northwestern Pakistan. Four have been confirmed as Taliban members, while the others were civilians, including tribal elders who had gathered for an administrative meeting. Reports the Global Post on October 10, 2012:

Opponents take the stance that these strikes are not part of an armed conflict and the rules of war, thus, do not apply. The armed conflict claim is a legal fiction and the United States is cherry picking the legal framework that protects its conduct under the rules of war, thus doing indirectly what they cannot do directly under international human rights laws. Shamsi contends, “I think the key issue here is that the US is claiming that the laws of war apply in places where they absolutely do not apply.”

Contrary to the US stance, this interpretation holds that, regarding Anderson’s explanation, “There is no war going on in a legal sense, and if there is, it is strictly limited to hot battlefields of Afghanistan. [Drone strikes are] governed by standards of international human rights and domestic law, and therefore any killings that take place under the circumstances are not protected by the law of war and instead are just extrajudicial executions, and frankly murder.”

Meanwhile, the CIA wants to up the number of drones that it denies having. Reports Policymic.com:

While the 2012 presidential election racket focuses on gaffes, Romney’s binders, and Big Bird, the CIA and the Pentagon are currently busy finding ways to increase their military power and influence around the globe. According to the Washington Post, CIA Director David Petraeus wants an increased drone fleet to “bolster the agency’s ability to sustain its campaigns of lethal strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and enable it, if directed, to shift aircraft to emerging Al-Qaeda threats in North Africa or other trouble spots.”

In case you miss the significance here, the CIA is running a covert war using a kill list known to exist but which the president denies. Our “intelligence agency” requests even more drones at a time when the international community is already questioning the legality of how we are using them. In America there is little argument that “intelligence agency” = “paramilitary organization.”

Finally, the Daily Mail reports that two specific Americans could be investigated for murder related to their roles in drone strikes.

A damning dossier assembled from exhaustive research into the strikes’ targets sets out in heartbreaking detail the deaths of teachers, students and Pakistani policemen. It also describes how bereaved relatives are forced to gather their loved ones’ dismembered body parts in the aftermath of strikes.

The dossier has been assembled by human rights lawyer Shahzad Akbar, who works for Pakistan’s Foundation for Fundamental Rights and the British human rights charity Reprieve.

John A Rizzo

CIA attorney John A. Rizzo [Image credit]

Filed in two separate court cases, it is set to trigger a formal murder investigation by police into the roles of two US officials said to have ordered the strikes. They are Jonathan Banks, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Islamabad station, and John A. Rizzo, the CIA’s former chief lawyer.

[…]

The plaintiff in the Islamabad case is Karim Khan, 45, a journalist and translator with two masters’ degrees, whose family comes from the village of Machi Khel in the tribal region of North Waziristan.

His eldest son, Zahinullah, 18, and his brother, Asif Iqbal, 35, were killed by a Hellfire missile fired from a Predator drone that struck the family’s guest dining room at about 9.30pm on New Year’s Eve, 2009.

Asif had changed his surname because he loved to recite Iqbal, Pakistan’s national poet, and Mr Khan said: ‘We are an educated family. My uncle is a hospital doctor in Islamabad, and we all work in professions such as teaching.

‘We have never had anything to do with militants or terrorists, and for that reason I always assumed we would be safe.’

History may ultimately adjudge our current drone war on the same level as the secret bombing of Cambodia and Laos during the Vietnam war.

I’ve also written about America’s drone war in these posts:
The Drone War and the kingdom of God

One former British soldier talks about drone warfare

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.