Clive Stafford Smith writes: Thursday’s landmark decision by the Pakistani high court in Peshawar is a remarkable document: Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan examines the US use of drones against Pakistan’s tribal areas and reaches several conclusions that, while obvious to most sensible observers, seem to have eluded American authorities for several years.
The case was filed last year by Shahzad Akbar, of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights (FFR), a legal charity based in Islamabad. The case was brought by families of victims killed in a US drone strike on 17 March 2011. The strike – one of more than 300 Obama has launched at Pakistan – is infamous: more than 50 people were killed, including many community elders who had gathered to settle a local dispute over a chromite mine. For the locals it was the equivalent of a strike on the high court itself.
The chief justice’s first finding is perhaps the most obvious: “[Drone strikes] are absolutely illegal and a blatant violation of sovereignty of the state of Pakistan.” The strikes are, he says, international war crimes, given that there is no state of war between the US and its nominal ally, Pakistan. [Continue reading…]