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13 Aug, 2013 16:39

No to killer drones: UN chief calls for UAV surveillance use only

No to killer drones: UN chief calls for UAV surveillance use only

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said drones should be used for surveillance only, and those countries using armed UAVs must act within international law. Ban delivered his comments in Pakistan, where US drone strikes have killed thousands, including many civilians.

“The only goal of unarmed aircrafts is photography. Their use as a weapon must be subject to international humanitarian law,” the UN Secretary General was quoted as saying on Tuesday by AFP.

He noted that his words represented a “very clear position” from the UN, stressing that the organization expects those countries deploying drones to follow the law.

“Every effort should be made to avoid mistakes and civilian casualties,” he added.

Ban addressed the controversial aircraft while visiting the National University of Science and Technology in Islamabad, where he cut a symbolic ribbon opening the university-based International Center for Peace and Stability.

Ban’s words were met with applause, as Pakistani officials and activists have repeatedly condemned drone strikes on the country’s territory as a violation of its sovereignty and international law. A high court in Pakistan decided in May that the US-launched attacks should be considered war crimes and advised the country’s Foreign Ministry to file a resolution against them in the UN.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (C) is flanked by Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Kayani (L) and Pakistan's Adviser for National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz in Islamabad on August 13, 2013. (AFP Photo / Aamir Qureshi)

The strikes, hundreds of which have been carried out by the CIA since 2004, are viewed by Washington as an important tool in the fight against Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants. The US has long claimed that such targeted assassinations result in “exceedingly rare” civilian fatalities.

But a recent report by the British Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which is said to be based on a leaked data from internal documents compiled by Pakistani officials, has revealed that one in five victims of US precision strikes in the period from 2006 to 2009 were confirmed as civilians.

The leaked classified data builds upon 75 CIA drone strikes in northwest Pakistan, stating that of 746 people killed in those strikes, 147 were identified as civilian victims, including 94 children.

The US Secretary of State John Kerry on August 1 said that President Obama has “a very real timeline” of drone strikes in Pakistan, adding that he hopes the attacks will soon end. Earlier this year, a senior US senator Lindsey Graham admitted that about 4,700 people have been killed in American targeted killings, not specifying the extent of civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, Ban Ki-moon’s visit also came amid heightened tensions between Pakistan and India over the disputed territory of Kashmir and reports of clashes along the Line of Control – the de facto border monitored by UN observers that divides the region.

While Pakistan and India have been trading accusations of cross-border fire, Sharif also attempted to lower the temperature of previously published statements, calling on his neighbor for a “new beginning” in relations.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon cuts the ribbon during the Inauguration Ceremony of the Centre for International Peace and Stability at the National University of Sciences and Techonology in Islamabad on August 13, 2013.(AFP Photo / Aamir Qureshi)