UN opens probe into US armed drone strikes

The United Nations has begun an investigation into the use of armed aerial drone strikes by the United States and others to see if those attacks violate international human-rights laws.

The investigation will be led by Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, according to a statement issued by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Thursday.

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The inquiry will be carried out in three stages, with the findings scheduled to be delivered to the U.N. General Assembly this fall, according to a statement issued by Emmerson.

The first phase of the investigation, according to Emmerson, will include visits to Pakistan, Yemen and the Sahel region in Africa to speak with local residents and non-governmental organizations to gather eyewitness accounts about past armed drone operations.

More than 80 percent of all U.S. armed drone strikes are targeted in Pakistan and Yemen. The Sahel region is reportedly the home of safe havens for al Qaeda's West African cell and its affiliates on the continent.

The second phase will include consultations with the U.S. and other countries that have led drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere, Emmerson said in the statement.

The final phase will evaluate all previous findings and input from the countries involved and present recommendations to the U.N. General Assembly by October.

Last year, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay announced plans for the U.N.-led inquiry into the Obama administration's aggressive use of unmanned airstrikes inside Pakistan during a speech in Islamabad.

At the time, Pillay said the investigations would focus on the rate of civilian casualties generated by the American drone campaign, and whether those casualties violated human-rights laws.

When asked if American-led drone strikes in Pakistan were violations of human rights, Pillay replied: “I see the indiscriminate killings and injuries of civilians in any circumstances as human-rights violations.”

News of the new U.N. drone inquiry comes as recent reports claim another six suspected al Qaeda militants were killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen on Thursday.

The six militants killed on Thursday brings the body count of suspected terrorists killed in the past week to 20, according to Reuters.

Four suspected insurgents were killed in a strike at al-Jawf province, near the border with Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, and another four suspected militants were killed in a drone strike in central Yemen on Monday, Reuters reports. Additionally, six terror suspects were killed in two separate raids on Saturday and Sunday in southern Yemen.