U.N. Human Rights Expert Launches Targeted Killing Inquiry

January 24, 2013 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – The United Nations announced this morning the official launch of an investigation into targeted killings by the United States and other governments. The inquiry will be led by Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights. The results of the investigation, to be run from Geneva, will be reported to the U.N. General Assembly in the fall.

“We welcome this investigation in the hopes that global pressure will bring the U.S. back into line with international law requirements that strictly limit the use of lethal force,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. “Virtually no other country agrees with the U.S.’s claimed authority to secretly declare people enemies of the state and kill them and civilian bystanders far from any recognized battlefield. To date, there has been an abysmal lack of transparency and no accountability for the U.S. government’s ever-expanding targeted killing program.”

The ACLU is fighting a legal challenge to the U.S. targeted killing program in a lawsuit brought with the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of the families of three Americans killed in targeted killing strikes in Yemen in 2011. The ACLU is also litigating two lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act to reveal the U.S. government’s legal rationale and other details about the program.

“We hope the U.S. cooperates with the inquiry, and whether it does or not will show whether it holds itself to the same obligation to cooperate with U.N. human rights investigations that it urges on other countries,” said Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU’s Human Rights Program. “The U.S. targeted killing program is setting a dangerous precedent for other countries, which will soon have similar drone capabilities but also have less traditional respect for human rights and international law.”

More information on the ACLU’s lawsuits on targeted killing is at:

The ACLU’s statement to the U.N. Human Rights Council on targeted killing is at:

Emmerson’s statement from today is at:

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