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The General Assembly of the United Nations unanimously adopted today a resolution which calls for measures, including the use of remotely piloted aircrafts (drones), to comply with international law. Pakistan successfully coordinated with like-minded States to include references to the use of drones in the resolution. This is the first instance of a reference to the issue of drones in a UN resolution.

It may be recalled that the Prime Minister of Pakistan, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly on 27 September 2013, strongly raised the issue of drones. He said that the use of armed drones in the border areas of Pakistan were a continued violation of Pakistan’s territorial integrity and also stressed that they result in casualties of innocent civilians and are detrimental to efforts to eliminate extremism and terrorism.

The United Nations General Assembly resolution adopted today urges the member states to ensure that any measure taken or means employed to counter terrorism, including the use of drones, comply with their obligations under international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, human rights law and international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction and proportionality.

The resolution also lays emphasis on the urgent and imperative need to seek agreement between states on the legal questions pertaining to the use of drones.

Since the present government came into office in June 2013, Pakistan has been raising the issue of drones at all relevant international fora including the United Nations to raise international public opinion against the use of drones. UN bodies where Pakistan has raised the issue of drones include Security Council, General Assembly, Committees of General Assembly dealing with Disarmament and International Security, Social, Humanitarian and Cultural and Legal issues, Human Rights Council and Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons.

Drones strikes have serious human rights and humanitarian implications besides implications for inter-state relations and peace and security. The issue of drone strikes will also be taken up by the UN Human Rights Council in its March 2014 session.

19 December 2013

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