GENEVA (26 December 2013) – United Nations human rights experts today expressed serious concern about recent lethal drone airstrikes, allegedly conducted by US forces in the Republic of Yemen, that resulted in civilian casualties.
According to local security officials, 16 civilians were killed and at least 10 injured when two separate wedding processions were hit on 12 December in Al-Baida Governorate. The victims had been mistakenly identified as members of Al-Qaeda, the officials said.
“If armed drones are to be used, States must adhere to international humanitarian law, and should disclose the legal basis for their operational responsibility and criteria for targeting,” said Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. “Yemen cannot consent to violations of the right to life of people in its territory,” he added.
Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez also expressed concern about the legitimacy of the airstrikes, highlighting that each State was obliged to undertake due investigation into the reported incidents, including the effect on civilians.
“A deadly attack on illegitimate targets amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment if, as in this case, it results in serious physical or mental pain and suffering for the innocent victims,” Mr. Méndez said.
Mr. Heyns stressed the need for accountability when drones were used. He called on the two States involved, the US and Yemen, to disclose whether they were responsible, and if so, what targeting standards were used, how many civilians were killed, and whether they plan to provide compensation for the victims’ families.
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