U.S. drone use under investigation

The United Nations has opened an investigation into drone attacks by the U.S. and other countries.

The United Nations opened an investigation on Jan. 24 into the use of drones and targeted assassinations by the United States, United Kingdom and Israel in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories.

British human rights lawyer Ben Emmerson, who also works as a special investigator for the U.N. Human Rights Council, leads the panel, which will spend nine months looking at specific drone strikes, the New York Times reported.

The panel’s report will be used as a recommendation to the U.N.’s General Assembly in October. The goal is to regulate the use of drone technology, a new form of warfare, and avoid killing civilians.

The study focuses on 25 selected drone strikes as well as the use of ground-launched missiles and other standoff weapons.

Mark Prelas, professor and director of research for the Nuclear Science and Engineering Institute at MU, said despite the controversy, there are some benefits to the use of drone technology, such as keeping more soldiers out of combat. But he also said drones put a strain on international relations.

“It is clearly one of the issues that brings a population to be against the just cause that the U.S. is waging war on,” Prelas said. “It strains our relationship with other countries if we don’t have an agreement that we can fly drones in their airspace.”

Prelas said the main concern with the U.N. investigation is equality.

“With any investigation what you hope for is a fair and just body,” Prelas said. “Typically there are agendas in these political arenas, so I think basically one would hope for a fair and unbiased review.”

The 10-member panel includes two Americans: Sarah Knuckey of New York University and Capt. Jason Wright, an army lawyer.

Maureen Dickmann of Rock Bridge Christian Church encourages Americans to put the shoe on the other foot and imagine if drones attacked the U.S.

“Drones are fairly new to the world, but what’s right and fair and all that still flies in that you don’t kill civilians,” Dickmann said. “If we look at what’s happening, it (has) been documented that these drones have bombed weddings and funerals and killed civilians and children.”

Casualties from strikes have occurred at both weddings and funerals overseas, according to CBS.

Dickmann said she finds the United States' use of drones troubling.

“What they’re doing is targeting citizens, and that’s wrong,” she said. “They’re apparently trying to preemptively assassinate people and that seems like a slippery slope. Who’s to determine who we should assassinate?”

More than 50 countries have the technology for drones, with America leading the market, Emmerson told the New York Times.

Jeff Stack, the coordinator of Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation, the largest interfaith peace organization in the country, said U.S. foreign policy needs to change.

“It’s troubling that human beings are so detached,” he said. “The (drone) operator sees the carnage and the deaths that are caused.”

He said the violence of drone attacks leads to aggression, much like the aggression that caused the events of Sept. 11.

“They are used for killing human beings,” he said. “They are used for waging wars. It’s business as usual for the U.S. to launch them in Yemen, but how would we respond if they were used on our soil? We would be aghast.”

The investigation was sparked from a statement made at last year’s human rights council in Geneva, condemning America’s use of drones.

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