A UN human rights expert has called on the United States for more transparency about the civilian casualties in its unmanned drone operations overseas.
Philip Alston, UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, expressed strong concern on the “deeply troubling” problem of preventable civilian casualties in Washington’s mounting pilotless drone attacks on the territory of other states.
“The [US] government should track and make public the number of civilian casualties,” he told the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday, demanding “real accountability based on credible independent investigations.”
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The Australian law professor criticized the impunity with which US soldiers, Pentagon officials, intelligence agents and private contractors commit unlawful killings.
“The US government should disclose the legal basis for such killings and identify any safeguards designed to reduce collateral civilian casualties and ensure that the government has targeted the correct person,” he emphasized.
US diplomat Lawrence Richter dismissed Alston’s remarks, questioning the UN investigator’s mandate to cover military and intelligence operations related to armed conflict.
Richter said the United States has an extensive legal framework to respond to unlawful killings and is doing its best to provide information about the deaths in its armed conflicts.
His remarks came a day after the pentagon confessed to making mistakes in Afghanistan and targeting civilians through its unmanned drone attacks.
In 2008, Alston issued an estimated number of Afghan civilians toll in operations by foreign and Afghan troops that far exceeded the military alliance’s toll.
The US military also launches regular drone attacks on Pakistan’s tribal regions in what it calls a crackdown on Taliban-linked insurgency.
The civilian casualties in the operations have prompted protest from Islamabad officials who view the attacks as an apparent violation of sovereignty.