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U.N. Rapporteur Says Some Drone Strikes in Pakistan May Be War Crimes, and Announces Investigation

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Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 10:46 PM

In my book Power and Constraint, I argued that the ACLU/CCR al-Aulaqi lawsuit “was merely an early battle in a long war over the legitimacy of U.S. targeting practices—a war that will take place not just in the United States, but in other countries as well.”  I described an early effort in this direction, a process in Pakistan to seek the arrest of former CIA lawyer John Rizzo in connection with drone strikes in Pakistan.  In a speech last Thursday at Harvard Law School, Ben Emmerson, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counterterrorism, described more recent developments in this direction, including a lawsuit in London which seeks to bar the UK’s signals intelligence agency from sharing targeting intelligence with the USG for drone attacks, and processes in Pakistan that seek to trigger criminal investigations of U.S. officials and a judicial declaration that the drone strikes are acts of war.  Emmerson also stated his belief that some of the alleged strikes in Pakistan during the Obama era, if the facts alleged prove true, are war crimes.  And he announced that he would be “launching an investigation unit within the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council to inquire into individual drone attacks, and other forms of targeted killing conducted in counter-terrorism operations.”