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May 10, 2013

US drone strikes a war crime: PHC

 
May 10, 2013

PESHAWAR: Declaring the US drone strikes in the tribal areas as a blatant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, unlawful and a war crime, the Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Thursday ruled that the government and security forces, under constitutionaland legal obligations, shall have the right to shoot down the unmanned aircraft entering Pakistan’s airspace or attacking its territory.
A two-member bench comprising PHC Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan and Justice Musarrat Hilali announced a 22-page judgment in four identical writ petitions filed against the US drone strikes in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. The petitioners had requested the court to direct the government to stop the drone strikes and order security forces to shoot down the drones entering the Pakistani territory.
Announcing the verdict, the chief justice ruled that under the 1973 Constitution, particularly its Article 199, the court was under obligation to safeguard and protect the life and property of Pakistanis and also any person living for the time being in Pakistan.
“The drone strikes, carried out in Fata, particularly North and South Waziristan, by the CIA and US authorities are blatant violation of basic human rights and are against the UN Charter, the UN General Assembly Resolution, adopted unanimously, the provision of Geneva Conventions; thus it is held to be a war crime, cognisable by the International Court of Justice or Special Tribunal for War Crimes, constituted or to be constituted by the UNO for this purpose,” the bench said in the judgment.
It directed the government and security forces to ensure that in future, drone strikes are not carried out in the sovereign territory of Pakistan and proper warning be conveyed to this effect. “If that does not work, the government and state institutions, particularly the security forces, shall have the right under constitutional and legal obligations to shoot down the drones attacking Pakistani territory or entering

its airspace,” it added.
The bench stated that the drone strikes carried out against a handful of alleged militants not engaged in combat with the US forces amounted to breach of international law and conventions and were thus illegal and blatant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.
The bench noted that the US authorities were carrying out drone strikes without the consent of Pakistan and despite the protests lodged by Islamabad with Washington. It said the civilian casualties, including the killing of infants and suckling babies, women and pre-teen children, and considerable damage to properties, livestock and wildlife was an unpardonable crime on the part of US authorities, including the CIA.
The bench also mentioned that in view of the established facts with regard to civilian casualties and damage caused to the properties and livestock of Pakistanis, the US government was bound to compensate all the victim families at the assessed rate of compensation in dollars.
The high court directed the government to take the matter to the UN Security Council and in case it isn’t heard there and if veto power was unduly exercised by the US authorities, then an urgent meeting of the General Assembly be requisitioned to help end the drone attacks in Pakistan.
The court told the government to file a proper complaint to the UN secretary general to constitute an independent War Crime Tribunal to give verdict whether the drone strikes amounted to war crime. “If it is adjudged to be a war crime, then the US government should be directed immediately to stop the drone strikes in Pakistan and compensate the victims.”
The bench directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take steps, including preparation of draft resolution in line with the above guidelines given by the court.“In case the US authorities do not comply with the UN resolution, whether passed by the Security Council or the General Assembly, the Government of Pakistan shall sever all ties with the US and as a mark of protest deny all logistic and other facilities to the US within Pakistan,” the bench said.
The Defence of Pakistan Council (DPC) through lawyer Muazzam Butt, Foundation for Fundamental Rights (FFR) represented by Barrister Shahzad Akbar, lawyer FM Sabir and tribal elder Malik Noor Khan had filed the the writ petitions against the drone attacks.

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