- U.S. drone strikes violate Pakistan's sovereignty - U.N.
- U.N. body agrees on women's rights policy, skirting sexual politics
- Kerry voices conditional U.S. support for U.N. arms treaty
Posted: 15 Mar 2013 08:04 PM PDT
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States has violated Pakistan's sovereignty and shattered tribal structures with unmanned drone strikes in its counterterrorism operations near the Afghan border, a U.N. human rights investigator said in a statement on Friday.
U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, Ben Emmerson, visited Pakistan for three days this week as part of his investigation into the civilian impact of the use of drones and other forms of targeted killings.
"As a matter of international law, the U.S. drone campaign in Pakistan is ... being conducted without the consent of the elected representatives of the people, or the legitimate Government of the State," Emmerson said in a statement issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.
"It involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty," he said.
Emmerson said in January he would investigate 25 drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories. He is expected to present his final report to the U.N. General Assembly in October.
Washington had little to say about Emmerson's statement.
"We've seen his press release. I'm obviously not going to speak about classified information here," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. "We have a strong ongoing counterterrorism dialogue with Pakistan and that will continue."
Spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House would withhold judgment until it sees Emmerson's full report.
"We have a solid working relationship with them (Pakistan) on a range of issues, including a close cooperative security relationship, and we're in touch with them on a regular basis on those issues."
'END MILITARY INTERFERENCE'
Emmerson said the Pashtun tribes of north-western Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, Pakistan's largely lawless region bordering Afghanistan, have been decimated by the counterterrorism operations.
"These proud and independent people have been self-governing for generations, and have a rich tribal history that has been too little understood in the West," he said. "Their tribal structures have been broken down by the military campaign in FATA and by the use of drones in particular."
The tribal areas have never been fully integrated into Pakistan's administrative, economic or judicial system. They are dominated by ethnic Pashtun tribes, some of which have sheltered and supported militants over decades of conflict in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Clearing out militant border sanctuaries is seen by Washington as crucial to bringing stability to Afghanistan, particularly as the U.S.-led combat mission ends in 2014.
Most, but not all, attacks with unmanned aerial vehicles have been by the United States. Britain and Israel have also used them, and dozens of other countries are believed to possess the technology.
"It is time for the international community to heed the concerns of Pakistan, and give the next democratically elected government of Pakistan the space, support and assistance it needs to deliver a lasting peace on its own territory without forcible military interference by other states," Emmerson said.
The U.N. Human Rights Council asked Emmerson to start an investigation of the drone attacks following requests by countries including Pakistan, Russia and China.
Criticism of drone strikes centres on the number of civilians killed and the fact that they are launched across sovereign states' borders so frequently, far more than conventional attacks by piloted aircraft.
Retired U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, who devised the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, warned in January against overusing drones, which have provoked angry demonstrations in Pakistan.
Civilian casualties from drone strikes have angered local populations and created tension between the United States and Pakistan and Afghanistan. Washington has sought to portray civilian casualties as minimal, but groups collecting data on these attacks say they have killed hundreds of civilians.
(Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria and Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 15 Mar 2013 07:31 PM PDT
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A U.N. policy-making body agreed upon a declaration Friday urging an end to violence against women and girls despite concerns from conservative Muslim countries and the Vatican about references to women's sexual and reproductive rights.
Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Libya, Nigeria and Sudan, along with Honduras and the Vatican, expressed reservations about the declaration of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, but did not block adoption of the 18-page text.
While the declaration of the commission, created in 1946 for the advancement of women, is non-binding, diplomats and rights activists say it carries enough global weight to pressure countries to improve the lives of women and girls.
"People worldwide expected action, and we didn't fail them. Yes, we did it," Michelle Bachelet, a former president of Chile and head of U.N. Women, which supports the commission, told delegates on Friday after two weeks on negotiations on the text.
Shannon Kowalski, director of advocacy and policy at the International Women's Health Coalition, said the declaration was a victory for women and girls, but could have gone further to recognize violence faced by lesbians and transgender people.
"Governments have agreed to take concrete steps to end violence," she said. "For the first time, they agreed to make sure that women who have been raped can get critical health care services, like emergency contraception and safe abortion."
Earlier in the talks Iran, Russia, the Vatican and others had threatened to derail the declaration with concerns about references such as access to emergency contraception, abortion and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, activists said.
A proposed amendment by Egypt, that would have allowed states to avoid implementing the declaration if they clashed with national laws, religious or cultural values, failed. Some diplomats said it would have undermined the whole document.
But on Friday, Egypt's delegation said it would not stand in the way of the declaration for the sake of women's empowerment. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Islamists had warned on Thursday that the declaration could destroy society.
'FREE OF FEAR'
The United States welcomed the declaration but lamented that references were not made to lesbian and transgender women and that the term "intimate partner violence" was not used to capture the range of relationships in which abuse can happen.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice last week boasted that all 50 U.S. states have laws treating date rape or spousal rape as equal to that of rape by a stranger. In contrast Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood decried the idea of allowing women to prosecute their husbands for rape or sexual harassment.
Last year, disagreements over sexual and reproductive rights issues prevented the commission from agreeing upon a declaration of a theme of empowering rural women. The commission was also unable to reach a deal a decade ago when it last focused on the theme of ending violence against women and girls.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said states now had a responsibility to turn the 2013 declaration into reality.
"Violence against women is a heinous human rights violation, global menace, a public health threat and a moral outrage," Ban said in a statement. "No matter where she lives, no matter what her culture, no matter what her society, every woman and girl is entitled to live free of fear."
Germany's U.N. Ambassador Peter Wittig said the declaration was balanced and strong. "It sends a much-needed message to the women around the world: your rights are crucial," he posted on Twitter (@GermanyUN)
The full declaration of the Commission on the Status of Women can be seen at: www.unwomen.org
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 15 Mar 2013 07:29 PM PDT
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry voiced support on Friday for an international treaty to regulate the $70 billion global arms trade, but restated Washington's "red line," affirming that it would not accept limits on U.S. domestic gun ownership.
The U.N. General Assembly voted in December to hold a final round of negotiations from March 18 to 28 on what could become the first international treaty to regulate international weapons transfers after a drafting conference in July 2012 collapsed because the United States and others wanted more time.
Arms control campaigners say one person every minute dies worldwide as a result of armed violence and that a convention is needed to prevent the unregulated and illicit flow of weapons into conflict zones fuelling wars and atrocities.
"The United States is steadfast in its commitment to achieve a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty that helps address the adverse effects of the international arms trade on global peace and stability," Kerry said in a statement.
"An effective treaty that recognizes that each nation must tailor and enforce its own national export and import control mechanisms can generate the participation of a broad majority of states, help stem the illicit flow of conventional arms across international borders and have important humanitarian benefits."
But he repeated that the United States - the world's No. 1 arms manufacturer - would not accept any treaty that imposed new limits on U.S. citizens' right to bear arms, a sensitive political issue in the United States.
"We will not support any treaty that would be inconsistent with U.S. law and the rights of American citizens under our Constitution, including the Second Amendment," he said.
"International conventional arms trade is, and will continue to be, a legitimate commercial activity," he said, adding that countries should work to prevent arms from reaching those who commit "the world's worst crimes, including those involving terrorism and serious human rights violations."
The point of the treaty is to set standards for all cross-border transfers of any type of conventional weapon - light and heavy. It would also set binding requirements for nations to review all cross-border arms contracts to ensure the munitions are not used in human rights abuses, do not violate embargoes and are not illegally diverted.
DISPUTE OVER AMMUNITION
The leading U.S. pro-gun group, the National Rifle Association, has vowed to fight the treaty, dismissing suggestions that a December U.S. school shooting massacre in Connecticut bolstered the case for such a pact.
If a treaty is approved, it will require ratification by countries' legislatures before it goes into effect. The NRA has warned the arms trade treaty would undermine the right to bear arms and says it will fight hard to prevent ratification if the Obama administration supports the treaty.
Backers of the treaty accuse the NRA of deceiving the U.S. public about the pact, which they say will have no impact on domestic gun ownership and would apply only to exports.
Some 150 countries will participate in the negotiations that begin on Monday at U.N. headquarters.
Human rights groups and other advocates of the treaty welcomed Kerry's statement.
"While the U.S. government reaffirms its red line on the Second Amendment, it did not issue any new red lines or demands on the international community," said Frank Jannuzi of Amnesty International. "We hope that this means that they will lead the next round (of negotiations) to consensus."
Daryl Kimball, head of the Arms Control Association, said Kerry's remarks were a "long overdue positive statement that makes it clear the administration is dedicated to pursuing a robust treaty."
He added that it was positive Kerry did not raise the issue of ammunition, something the United States had previously demanded be excluded from the treaty. Supporters of a tough treaty in Europe and elsewhere insist on including it.
Last month, U.S. National Security Council deputy spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Washington would continue to oppose the inclusion of ammunition in the draft treaty.
"Ammunition is a fundamentally different commodity than conventional arms," Hayden said. "It is fungible, consumable, reloadable, and cannot be marked in any practical way that would permit it to be tracked or traced."
A U.S. official told Reuters on Friday that Washington's position against including ammunition had not changed.
(Editing by Todd Eastham and Peter Cooney)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
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