Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeffrey S. Viano/U.S. Navy /Getty Images.
The U.N. on Tuesday called for the United States to justify its increasingly frequent use of drone strikes to assassinate al-Qaida and Taliban suspects abroad.
The request came in a report issued by the U.N.'s Human Rights Council, which urged the Obama administration to offer legal backing for the controversial tactic that has resulted in a high number of civilian casualties, Reuters reports. The 47-member forum is set to hold a debate on the issue later Tuesday.
"The [American] government should clarify the procedures in place to ensure that any targeted killing complies with international humanitarian law and human rights and indicate the measures or strategies applied to prevent casualties, as well as the measures in place to provide prompt, thorough, effective and independent public investigation of alleged violations," the council wrote in its 28-page report.
Since 2004, thousands have died in more than 300 drone strikes carried out by the U.S. across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia, an estimated 20 percent of whom were civilians, according to human rights observers.
Beyond concerns about the high rate of civilian casualties in drone strikes, the warfare method is representative of the apparent U.S. policy to kill, not capture, al-Qaida and Taliban suspects, something that would appear to be in violation of international law to arrest terror suspects. Obama has been under scrutiny since the public became aware of the administration’s secret "kill list" last month.
Just last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended the drone strikes based on their record of success, pointing to the recent death of al-Qaida’s second in command. However, the tactic has been a point of contention in U.S. foreign policy, particularly in Pakistan, where the government cut off supply routes to American troops stationed in Afghanistan in retaliation against the strikes.
A previous U.N. report in 2009 called on the U.S. to address the international body’s concerns with the attacks, though no action was taken at that time.