UNITED NATIONS - For the first time, the UN General Assembly has pronounced itself on the ever-increasing use of armed drones in the pursuit of the ‘war on terror’, as the 193-member body called for the operations by remotely controlled aircraft to comply with international law.
The Assembly did so by unanimously adopting a comprehensive resolution, entitled ‘Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism,’ as it acted on a range of issues relating mainly to human rights.
The call for bringing the use of drones against suspected terrorists was contained in a lengthy, 28-paragraph resolution. The portion about drone strikes was included at the initiative of Pakistan, which has consistently stated that such operations were against international law, as also counterproductive.
Although the text does not call for an end to drone strikes, it underscores the need for an agreement among member states on legal questions stemming from such operations.
Armed drones are a key but controversial component of the US war against terrorism, including against targets in Pakistan.
The resolution urges states “To ensure that any measures taken or means employed to counter terrorism, including the use of remotely-piloted aircraft, comply with their obligations under international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, human rights law and international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction and proportionality.
The text also calls for taking into account “Relevant United Nations resolutions and decisions on human rights, and encourages them to give due consideration to the recommendations of the special procedures and mechanisms of the Human Rights Council and to the relevant comments and views of United Nations human rights treaty bodies.”
The resolution also takes note of the report of the Special Rapporteur Ben Emersson “which refers, inter alia, to the use of remotely-piloted aircraft, and notes the recommendations, including the urgent and imperative need to seek agreement among member states on legal questions pertaining to remotely-piloted aircraft operations.”
The text also encouraged “states while countering terrorism to undertake prompt, independent and impartial fact-finding inquiries whenever there are plausible indications of possible breaches to their obligations under international human rights law, with a view to ensuring accountability.”
Addressing the UN General Assembly in September, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had said that the use of armed drones in the border areas of Pakistan were a continued violation of Pakistan’s territorial integrity and also stressed that they resulted in casualties of innocent civilians and were detrimental to efforts to eliminate extremism and terrorism.
RESOLUTION REAFFIRMING PEOPLE’S SELF-DETERMINATION RIGHT
APP adds: The UN General Assembly stamped its approval on a Pakistan-sponsored resolution reaffirming that the universal realisation of the right of peoples to self-determination was a fundamental condition for the effective guarantee and observance of human rights. The resolution, co-sponsored by a record number of 81 countries, was adopted by consensus. The text was recommended by the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural issues. Diplomatic observers say the resolution, which Pakistan has been tabling since 1981, serves to focus the world’s attention on the struggle by peoples for their inalienable right to self-determination, including those in Kashmir and Palestine.
The resolution, which also declared the 193-member body’s firm opposition to acts of foreign military intervention, aggression and occupation, since these have resulted in the suppression of the right of peoples to self-determination and other human rights in certain parts of the world.
The resolution also called on those States responsible to cease immediately their military intervention in and occupation of foreign countries and territories, as well as all acts of repression, discrimination, exploitation and maltreatment.
By further terms, the Assembly deplored the plight of millions of refugees and displaced persons who have been uprooted as a result of these acts and reaffirms their right to return to their homes voluntarily in safety and honour.
It also requested the Human Rights Council to give special attention to the violation of human rights, especially the right to self-determination, resulting from foreign military intervention, aggression or occupation. It also requests the Secretary-General to report to the next Session of the General Assembly on this question.