U.N. Expert Calls On U.S. To Halt CIA Targeted Killings

June 2, 2010 12:00 am

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Report Underscores Illegal Nature Of Program, Says ACLU

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NEW YORK – Targeted killings, including the use of drones, are increasingly used in ways that violate international law, according to a report out today by a U.N. expert on extrajudicial killings. The American Civil Liberties Union said the report underscores the alarming legal questions raised by the U.S. program of targeting and killing people – including U.S. citizens – sometimes far from any battlefield.

According to the report by U.N. special rapporteur Philip Alston, which will be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council Thursday, while targeted killings may be permitted in armed conflict situations when used against combatants, fighters or civilians who directly engage in combat-like activities, they are increasingly being used far from any battlefield. The report states that “this strongly asserted but ill-defined license to kill without accountability is not an entitlement which the United States or other States can have without doing grave damage to the rules designed to protect the right to life and prevent extrajudicial killings.”

Alston also criticized the U.S. invocation of the “law of 9/11,” which it uses to justify the use of force outside of armed-conflict zones as part of the so-called global war on terrorism. The report called for the United States and other countries to end the “accountability vacuum” by disclosing the full legal basis for targeted killings and specifically the measures in place to ensure wrongful killings are investigated, prosecuted and punished.

“The U.S. should heed the recommendations of the rapporteur and disclose the full legal basis of the U.S. targeted killings program, and it should abide by international law. The entire world is not a battlefield, and the government cannot use quintessentially warlike measures anywhere in the world that it believes a suspected terrorist might be located,” said Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program. “The Obama administration has pledged to lead by example and restore respect for rule of law, but U.S. targeted killings are impeding U.S. leadership on human rights and sending the message that some causes can be fought outside the rule of law and without transparency and accountability.”

The ACLU in March filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit demanding that the government disclose the legal basis for its use of unmanned drones to conduct targeted killings overseas, and in April sent a letter to President Obama condemning the U.S. policy on targeted killings and urging him to bring it into compliance with international and domestic law.

“The U.S. program of targeted killing outside of armed conflict zones is illegal and raises serious policy questions that ought to be debated publicly,” said Jonathan Manes, legal fellow with the ACLU National Security Project. “In addition to the legal basis, scope and limits of the program, the Obama administration should disclose how many civilians have been killed, how the program is overseen, and what accountability mechanisms exist over the CIA and others who conduct the targeted killings.”

More information about the ACLU’s FOIA lawsuit is available online at: www.aclu.org/national-security/predator-drone-foia

The ACLU’s letter to Obama is available at: www.aclu.org/human-rights-national-security/letter-president-obama-regarding-targeted-killings

Alston’s report is available online at: www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/14session/A.HRC.14.24.Add6.pdf

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