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Calls for Greater Transparency and Accountability for Targeted Killings at U.N. Human Rights Council

a drone
a drone
Allison Frankel,
Staff Attorney,
ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project
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June 19, 2012

Yesterday marked the opening of the 20th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. ACLU Human Rights Program Director Jamil Dakwar and National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi are in Geneva to attend the Session, and will discuss U.S.-related human rights issues, including the U.S. targeted killing policy.

At the Council’s open-session, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed concerns about the U.S. targeted killing program, stating that it was “unclear that all persons targeted are combatants or directly participating in hostilities.” Jamil also briefly addressed the Council, conveying appreciation for the call by the U.N. Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for increased transparency and accountability in the use of drones, and noting efforts in Germany and the European Parliament to enhance accountability for drone strikes. Other human rights organizations such as Amnesty International echoed this sentiment in speeches before the Council.

The Human Rights Council will hear more about targeted killing from the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, whose report on human rights issues in the U.S. critiques the targeted killing program. The report serves as a follow-up to his predecessor’s report based on a fact-finding mission to the U.S. In an interview with Reuters, Special Rapporteur Heyns criticized the U.S. targeted killing policy and urged the U.S. government to “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.” Today and tomorrow, Special Rapporteur Heyns will address the Council in an inter-active session, and Hina will respond to his targeted killing recommendations on behalf of the ACLU. Today’s session will last from approximately 11:00-12:00 EST. The event can be followed live here.

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