Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The United Nations, Drones, and Garry Davis

[UPDATE October 17, 2013]

The report of UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Ben Emmerson, was released today. Its conclusions include:
In particular, the Special Rapporteur urges the United States to further clarify its position on the legal and factual issues raised herein; to declassify, to the maximum extent possible, information relevant to its lethal extraterritorial counter-terrorism operations; and to release its own data on the level of civilian casualties inflicted through the use of remotely piloted aircraft, together with information on the evaluation methodology used.
(Read the full 24-page report: Promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism)

IN ADDITION, the report of UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, was also released today. Its conclusions include:
States must be transparent about the development, acquisition and use of armed drones. They must publicly disclose the legal basis for the use of drones, operational responsibility, criteria for targeting, impact (including civilian casualties), and information about alleged violations, investigations and prosecutions.
POSSIBLE IMPLICATIONS: 2014: The Year of Transparency (for U.S. Drone Use)?

(Read the full 24-page report: Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions)

[UPDATE: October 16, 2013] Among much speculation that she would be the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Pakistan human rights activist Malala Yousafzai met with Barack Obama at the White House.  Malala explained, "I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fuelling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact." (See Malala Yousafzai warns Barack Obama against Pakistan drone attacks)

This is extremely important, because we are just days away from the report on U.S. drone killings by Ben Emmerson, UN special rapporteur on counter terrorism. (More under "Exhibit B" below.)

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon spoke about drones in Pakistan in early August, saying:

"As I have often and consistently said, the use of armed drones, like any other weapon, should be subject to long-standing rules of international law, including international humanitarian law."


"Let me be clear that these new tools, such as unmanned unarmed aerial vehicles, are for information purposes only."

(See: UN chief, during Pakistan visit, says drone strikes must comply with international law)
At an all Parties Conference convened by Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan on in early September, the participants unanimously recommended the initiation of dialogue with all the stakeholders to curb terrorism and taking up the drones issue at the United Nations. The resolution said, in part:
"We are unanimous that the use of drones is not only a continued violation of our territorial integrity but also detrimental to our resolve and efforts of eliminating extremism and terrorism from our country. The Federal Government should consider the possibility of taking the drone issue to the United Nations as drone attacks are a violation of International Law."
The updates above -- taken together with the specific UN investigations discussed below -- hold promise that the issue of drones will get a high priority when the UN meets in its fall session.

EXHIBIT A: UN High Commission for Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights Navanethem Pillay
In May, 2013, the UN High Commission for Human Rights convened in Geneva, and drones were on the agenda:
"In one the strongest indictments yet from a top UN official, the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva has stated that lack of transparency in the use of armed drones has created a legal and accountability vacuum. Ms Navi Pillay also said Monday that “measures that violate human rights do not uproot terrorism, they nurture it.” It is for the first time that a top UN official has come out with stern condemnation of US policy on these sensitive subjects."
(See UN official condemns use of armed drones, May 28, 2013.)

The Commission debated a report calling for a ban on killer drones:
"Report author Christof Heyns, a South African professor of human rights law, calls for a worldwide moratorium on the 'testing, production, assembly, transfer, acquisition, deployment and use' of killer robots until an international conference can develop rules for their use."
(See New U.N. Report Calls For The Cessation Of All Military Drone Fabrication, May 4, 2013.)

EXHIBIT B: UN Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism

UN Special Rapporteur on Counter
Terrorism Ben Emmerson
A report on drone killings will be made to the UN General Assembly in the fall by the UN Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism
"On 24 January 2013, UN Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism Ben Emmerson, launched an inquiry 'into the civilian impact, and human rights implications of the use drones and other forms of targeted killing for the purpose of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency' in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, and the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories]. The investigation, carried out by ten UN experts, including Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Christof Heyns, aims at 'determining whether there is a plausible allegation of unlawful killing' in those cases where individuals are killed by drone strikes. The results of these inquiries will be presented at UN General Assembly's next session in October 2013.
(See "Drones War in Yemen": Report presented to UN experts , July 1, 2013.)

EXHIBIT C: UN General Assembly - Fall 2013

The UN General Assembly's 68th Session opens on Tuesday, September 17, 2013. General debate is scheduled for Tuesday, September 24 to Friday, September 27; and Monday, September 30 up to Friday, October 4. (See Schedule of General Assembly plenary and related meetings.)

Dates for specific meetings and reports will be released in the days ahead.

Reuters reports another factor that puts drones in the spotlight at the UN this fall: due to "rules of members states," deployment of a UN surveillance drone in the Congo is expected to be delayed until December. (Full story: "U.N. deployment of surveillance drone in Congo delayed to December" )

Stay tuned . . . .

*   *   * 
Original July 30, 2013 intro to this post:

Garry Davis died too soon.

Garry Davis was a visionary who translated his anguish at participating in mass killing as a bomber pilot in the "Good War" (WWII) into a call for an end to national governments and an end to war. (See Garry Davis, Man of No Nation Who Saw One World of No War, Dies at 91.)

Davis issued himself passport No. 1 for the World Government of World Citizens, and encouraged others to get one, too.

Laugh if you will, but 950,000 people have taken him up on it.

Davis died on July 24. If he had lived a few month's longer, he might have seen a powerful vindication of his antiwar vision. Several arms of the United Nations have already begun to investigate the criminal drone assaults launched by the United States government under President Barack Obama, and it there is a possibility that action will be called for by the full General Assembly when it convenes in late September in New York.

When you go to the UN website, it says, "Welcome to the United Nations. It's your world."

Garry Davis saw that, as long as nations are calling the shots, the way of the world will continue to be "might makes right" and more war. The only solution is to have a higher authority and a higher loyalty. A case in point is the United Nations' role in stopping and prosecuting the crimes of the United States.

Let's hope the UN gives us something Garry Davis would have been proud of.

Related posts

A new U.N. report makes it clear that the U.S. has to report fully on all its drone attacks.

(See 2014: The Year of Transparency (for U.S. Drone Use)?)


Many people will argue that it was only because the U.S. made a threat of force that Syria offered to enter into an agreement on chemical weapons. The sequence of events certainly suggests some relationship between the two.

(See "OR ELSE!" (What the U.S. threat of force against Syria teaches us) )

How do you formulate a statement that can somehow convince the United States to eliminate its threatening nuclear weapons?  How do you formulate the 10th request? Or the 100th? Knowing all the time that the United States is in the position -- will always be in the position -- to say, "No" ?  At what point does it dawn on you that the United States will never give up its nuclear weapons, because it has the power and the rest of the world doesn't?

(See 360 Degree Feedback in New York (2014 NPT Prepcom and How the World Views the United States))