US a No-Show for UN Talks on Covert Drone Wars

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by
Common Dreams

US a No-Show for UN Talks on Covert Drone Wars

As Pakistan pushes resolution for greater transparency, US boycotts

by
Sarah Lazare, staff writer

The United States is refusing to participate in UN Human Rights Council talks about greater accountability for human rights violations in covert drone wars.

Foreign Policy reporter Colum Lynch, who broke the story Wednesday, says the U.S. is opting out of discussions about a draft Pakistani resolution aimed at the U.S. drone strikes. Lynch explains:

The Pakistani draft, which was obtained by Foreign Policy, urges states to "ensure transparency" in record-keeping on drone strikes and to "conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations whenever there are indications of any violations to human rights caused by their use." It also calls for the convening of "an interactive panel discussion" on the use of drones.

During the third round of talks on Wednesday about the resolution, the United States was notably absent. The boycott marks a shift from President Obama's decision in 2009 to join the Human Rights Council after years of U.S. boycott at the behest of former President George W. Bush.

Yet, the move is in keeping with the Obama administration's diligent refusal to share public information about those U.S. drone wars and those killed in the attacks. A "modest" initiative in the U.S. Senate that would have forced the U.S. government to publicly report and identify those killed by U.S. drone strikes overseas failed last November.

While the Obama administration has repeatedly claimed that civilian deaths in drone strikes are minimal, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documents alarming rates of civilian deaths by covert U.S. attacks in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. Furthermore, in a 21-page report released earlier this month, UN special rapporteur on human rights Ben Emmerson identifies drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Gaza in which civilians were killed, injured, or threatened in drone attacks by the U.S. and close ally Israel.

The U.S. still has not answered for numerous high-profile attacks, including a December 2013 U.S. drone strike on a recent wedding procession in Yemen near the city of Rad’a that left 12 people dead and at least 15 wounded.

The boycott of the talks comes as the U.S. escalates its covert drone war in Yemen, with at least seven suspected strikes in the first two weeks of March.

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