International legal experts question legality of US drone strikes

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Washington, Apr.7 (ANI): While the Obama Administration is trying to defend the drone strikes on ungoverned tribal regions along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, legal scholars have questioned the legality of the Central Investigation Agency (CIA) operated missile hits.

Legal experts and the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur for Extra-judicial Executions have raised questions over the continuous US drone attacks in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan in Pakistan, in which over 400 to 500 suspected extremists have been killed since January 2009

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) quoted Professor Mary Ellen O'Connell of the University of Notre Dame law school describing the missile attacks as "unlawful killings" that violated international law.

Days ago, US State Department's legal advisor, Harold Koh, had underlined that the White House, under the international law, has the authority to carry out such missile attacks.

"In this ongoing armed conflict, the US has the authority under international law, and the responsibility to its citizens, to use force, including lethal force, to defend itself, including by targeting persons such as high-level al Qaeda leaders who are planning attacks," Koh had told international law scholars late last month.

However, legal experts said Koh's statement didn't answer several important questions.

"A number of controversial questions were left unanswered by Koh's speech," the newspaper quoted Jonathan Manes, a lawyer on the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project, as saying.

"The speech did not say where the government draws the line between legitimate targets, combatants and those taking part in hospitalities, and civilians, who cannot be targeted. The speech also did not set out any rules on where drones strikes can be used to target and kill individuals," Manes said.

A former National Security Council official in the Bush and Obama administrations, Brett McGurk, who is currently at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that Koh sidestepped some of the "thorniest issues" surrounding targeted killings.

McGurk categorically questioned the implications of civilian agencies like the CIA's involvement in the drone strikes.

"As a civilian agency and a non-combatant under International Humanitarian Law, the CIA is not governed by the same laws of war that cover US military personnel," the newspaper said. (ANI)

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