Pakistani Court Accuses U.S. of War Crimes for Drone Strikes
May 13, 2013 10:33 AM
Unsatisifed with "grief payments" of a few thousand dollars per dead civilian, Pakistanis demand action
Could the U.S., who perennial accuses its enemies of war crimes soon face those accusations itself before the UN? That possibility appears increasingly likely following a landmark Pakistani court ruling.
I. Embattled UAV Death Strike Program is Condemned by Court
In the name of fighting terrorism the U.S. has been
carrying out a silent war of drone strikes
in Pakistan, Qatar, and other Middle Eastern states, order death-strikes on what it say are "terrorists". But recently released numbers reveal the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) warfare program, largely controlled by the
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency
has a very low succes rate
in terms of killing high-profile militants, while having large levels of civilian collateral damage with some strikes killing women and children.
In response four petitions by tribal leaders complaining that U.S. drone strikes were killing civilians, Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan and the junior judge on Pakistan two-judge Peshawar High Court panel decided that the drone were war crimes as they killed innocent civilians.
The panel says that the drone strikes were inhumane and violated the UN Charter on Human Rights. The court is asking the government of Pakistan to push a UN resolution to condemn the strikes and declare them a war crimes, writing [
according to translation
The Press Trust of India
, "The government of Pakistan must ensure that no drone strike takes place in the future. If the US vetoes the resolution, then the country should think about breaking diplomatic ties with the US."
Pakistanis aren't satisifed with the U.S.'s "grief payments" of a few thousand dollars per dead civilian. [Image Source: Reuters]
Shahzad Akbar, lawyer for victims in the case, is quoted as saying, "This is a landmark judgment. Drone victims in Waziristan will now get some justice after a long wait. This judgment will also prove to be a test for the new government: if drone strikes continue and the government fails to act, it will run the risk of contempt of court."
II. Shift in Pakistani Leadership May Give War Crimes Allegations New Life
So far the Pakistani government, which relies on the U.S. for billions in aid payoffs has been hesitant to declare the U.S. guilty of war crimes. The U.S. federal government gave $17B USD [
] in 2009 to the governments of Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and Pakistan. Of these nations, Egypt has seen its government overthrown since on allegations of corruption, while Afghanistan has struggled under the weight of similar allegations of sweeping bribery and corruption. And Pakistan has been
implicated in sheltering Osama bin Laden
, the world's most famous terrorist.
But some foreign observers say regardles of special interests the Pakistani government should not tolerate the civilian deaths. Comments Clive Stafford Smith of the London-based human rights watchdog group
, "Today's momentous decision by the Peshawar High Court shines the first rays of accountability onto the CIA's secret drone war."
Some in the U.S. and Britain argue that the strikes are doing little to combat terrorism, and in fact are pushing locals towards terrorism.
In August 2012, a drone strike in Ye
40-year-old moderate cleric Salem bin Ahmed bin Ali Jaber just two days after he delivered a speech denouncing al-Qaeda. The irony is that the al-Qaeda officers who were targeted in the strike, reportedly came into town to threaten Mr. Jaber for his support of the U.S. and pacifistic leanings.
Some feel the President shouldn't have the power to order the warrantless killings of Americans on U.S. soil. [Image Source: Drone Wars UK]
To be fair, U.S. President Obama has
claimed a similar authority to kill American "terrorists" without warrant
on U.S. soil (although his adminstration
tried to cover up that policy
). The administration also does have a policy of paying the family of civilians it kills in the Middle East "grief payments" of a few thousand dollars per body.
While the current administration may be hesistant to take action in the UN against the U.S. elections are fast approaching. This Saturday's election sees the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party leading in current polls. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the party's leader, promises a zero-tolerance policy on drone strike civilian deaths. He comments, "Drone attacks are against the national sovereignty and a challenge for the country's autonomy and independence."
The U.S. has often accused hostile regimes like the governments of Syria, Sudan, Iran, and North Korea of war crimes in recent years. However, it has seldom been on the receiving end of such accusations, despite an aggressive (and expensive) overseas military program.
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