(MintPress) – The U.S. drone war will get a second look by the United Nations Human Rights Commission, beginning with an inquiry into the civilian impact of President Barack Obama’s controversial “kill list” operations.
The inquiry was launched today after a press conference held by U.N. Special Reporter Ben Emmerson, in London, U.K., following reports that two children were killed late Wednesday in U.S. drone strikes carried out in Yemen. In his address, Emmerson said the U.N. investigation is the last resort, citing the failure of the U.S. and others to carry out investigations into the matter.
Emmerson pointed to allegations that, since taking office, 50 civilians had been killed in follow-up strikes under President Barack Obama’s presidency, citing data reported to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ). Statistics compiled by the BIJ indicated that drone reports have killed 884 civilians since 2004, 176 of whom were children.
According to research conducted by New York and Stanford University law schools, an estimated 49 civilians die for every one terrorist killed in U.S. drone strikes under Obama.
Emmerson will head an investigation, including international specialists, that will fully examine the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Pentagon attacks, specifically in Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen, according to BIJ.
“Those states using this technology and those on whose territory it is used are under an international law obligation to establish effective independent and impartial investigations into any drone attack in which it is plausibly alleged that civilian casualties were sustained,” Emerson told reporters at the news conference.
The group of nine experts include international criminal lawyers, a U.K. forensic pathologists, a Pakistani judge, a U.S. military judge-advocate and other experts from Yemen and Pakistan.
The U.S. has not ruled out cooperation with the U.N. on the matter. Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said Washington had not completely ruled out inclusion.
The U.S. is a member of the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
The report is expected to be complete by fall 2013, at which point Emmerson’s team will make recommendations to the U.N. General Assembly on what action — if any — the U.N. will go forward with at that time.
The investigation comes on the heels of reports the CIA was constructing a playbook that would guide officials on rules relating to the use of unarmed drone attacks. However, the playbook will omit limitations on drone activity in Pakistan, at least for one year.
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