Human rights groups petition UN on drone strikes

At the UN Human Rights Council this week, a coalition of human rights groups is calling on all governments to take steps to monitor and promote transparency and legal compliance with regard to targeted killings.

The human rights groups want states to:

  • publicly disclose their targeted killing standards; and
  • ensure that their use or facilitation of targeted killings complies with international law; and
  • enable meaningful oversight and remedies; and
  • ensure effective investigations, tracking and response to civilian harm.

These recommendations are directed not only at those states carrying out targeted killings (e.g., the United States), but also to those states permitting such killings on their territory (e.g., Yemen), as well as states otherwise cooperating with or facilitating targeted killings.

The letter calls on the UN Human Rights Council to adopt a new resolution that would give effect to the above listed demands, and to ensure that states’ targeted killings practices continue to be monitored at the international level.

The letter’s submission coincides with a special panel today at the UN on targeted killings and drone strikes.  Today’s panel follows from extensive reporting on targeted killings by UN Special Rapporteurs (see here and here).  The letter to the Council builds upon prior joint human rights group letters sent to President Obama, which set out key concerns with respect to U.S. targeted killings practices, policies, and legal interpretations.

The letter was signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, the Center for Human Rights & Global Justice and the Global Justice Clinic at NYU School of Law, the Center for Civilians in Conflict, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Clinic (Columbia Law), Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists, and the Open Society Foundation.

The full text of the letter is here.

[Note: Sarah Knuckey directs the Human Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School, and the Clinic was one of the signatories to the letter.] 

About the Author(s)

Sarah Knuckey

Associate Clinical Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, Director of the Human Rights Clinic, Co-Director of the Human Rights Institute, Former Special Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions (2007-2016) Follow her on Twitter (@SarahKnuckey).