16 December, 2010

Speakers discuss the legality of drone attacks

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: “Without determining the nature of conflict in Pakistan in light of international law, legal status of CIA-operated drone strikes can not to be established” said Dr. Robert. He was speaking at a session assessing the legality of pilot-less drone attacks in the backdrop of international humanitarian law and human rights law. The informative session was organized by Pak Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), an independent research think-tank in Islamabad on Tuesday.

Speakers came up with a mixed reaction on the legality of drone attacks as the session ended in a limbo.

“The legal status of CIA-operated drone attacks is in limbo under the international laws as the state has failed to effectively control militant groups operating within the state”, said Dr. Robert P. Barnidge, Jr. an expert on International law and terrorism and lecturer at UK. “Even if the Pakistani government has tacitly approved U.S drone strikes in Pakistan, each attack needs to be assessed on the principles of distinction and proportionality” he said.

Dr. Niaz A. Shah who is a Lecturer in Law at law School of UK said the U.S relies on the article 51 of UN charter to justify the use of drones inside Pakistan. “However, this particular article can only be implemented if one state has attacked another state or a state maintains an effective control over the non-state actors, which intend or have attacked the other state.”

The enlightening session was followed by an interactive enlightening discussion in which the general consent emerged that drone attacks are breaching an international law as “according to humanitarian law, collateral damage is not allowed.”

However these attacks are not perceived as humanitarian violation because on the political front they are seen as a part of war on terror in which Pakistan and US both are partners, said Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, Asst. Professor of International Relations at Quaid-e-Azam university. “The international law does not permit these attacks and they are illegal according to UN charter”, he added while talking to Pakistan Observer reporter.

According to published reports, a resident of North Waziristan has sent a legal notice to US Defence and Security departments seeking Rs. 500 million in compensation for the deaths of two of his family members by US drone attacks. While discussing the particular case and related circumstances, Dr. Shah said that “It would be better if the people affected by drone attacks file cases for compensation under the US law which provides compensations for breaching an international law.”

Kenichi Masamoto, political counselor at Embassy of Japan in Pakistan raised the question on the implicit consent of Pakistan and US governments on attacks as well as the legal ambiguity of the issue.

The speakers suggested authentic fact finding and assessment of legality of the drone attacks by the Pakistan and US governments in collaboration. The participants also emphasized on the need of a comprehensive and mutually agreed definition of the fundamental issues related to war on terrorism.

Muhammad Amir Rana, Director PIPS and Dr. Manzar Abbas Zaidi, director research & analysis at National Counter Terrorism Authority also spoke on the issue of the legality of drone strikes in Pakistan.