U.N. team to investigate civilian drone deaths

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports: The United Nations plans to set up a special investigation unit examining claims of civilian deaths in individual US covert drone strikes.

UN investigators have been critical of US ‘extrajudicial executions’ since they began in 2002. The new Geneva-based unit will also look at the legality of the programme.

The latest announcement, by UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC, was made in a speech on October 25 at Harvard law school. Emmerson, who monitors counter-terrorism for the UN, previously called in August for the US to hand over video of each covert drone attack.

The London-based lawyer became the second senior UN official in recent months to label the tactic of deliberately targeting rescuers and funeral-goers with drones ‘a war crime’. That practice was first exposed by the Bureau for the Sunday Times in February 2012.

‘The Bureau has alleged that since President Obama took office at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. Christof Heyns … has described such attacks, if they prove to have happened, as war crimes. I would endorse that view,’ said Emmerson. [Continue reading...]

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