The timing couldn't be much more perfect. As American hunter-killer drones pummel Pakistan's tribal areas with renewed aplomb, and with Britain doubling both its spy- and kill-drone missions in Afghanistan, a special rapporteur with UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has announced a probe into the legality of some of elite special operations, drone strikes, and targeted killings carried out by both countries throughout the Middle East.
Ben Emmerson, who'll head up the inquiry, is exected to focus on the "civilian impact of the use of drones", with an emphasis on the "applicable legal framework" undergirding the lethal, unmanned missions. He'll look at some 25 select strikes carried out by the US and Britain--the idea being that this pool serves as a microcosm of the shadow wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen writ large. A close overview of the "factual evidence concerning civilian strikes," the UN said, in addition to the rationale for identifying militants and the legality of drone strikes taking place in areas the UN doesn't formally consider to be conflict zones, could yield pressing insights into the "lawfulness and proportionality" of the programs, of which little is known other than that they're active.
What's important to note here--other than that the US, for its part, has a history of simply ignoring unsavory UN investigations--is the distinction between "drone strikes" and "targeted killings," two counterterrorism tactics often subject to conflation. "Targeted killing," according to Danger Room, "often employs drones, but drone efforts go beyond the lethal strikes." What's more, as previously reported by the Guardian, Emmerson has voiced concerns over the notion of the US and Britain's incresingly reliance on the "double-tap" strike, a terrorist tactic that targets first responders--often family members--who show up to recover debris and body parts from still-smoldering blast sites.
Emmerson is set to announce his inquiry team soemtime today, which is due deliver findings later this year. Who knows, maybe by then we'll have even less of a clue as to what the actual fuck is going on with American and British dronings on abroad.
Reach Brian at email@example.com. @thebanderson