By Carlo Muñoz - 03/15/13 08:28 PM EDT
"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," U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism Ben Emmerson said in a statement on Friday.
His comments came after a three-day meeting with top Pakistani government officials in Islamabad this week to discuss the impact of the drone program on the country, according to recent reports.
Emmerson is leading a U.N. review of the American armed drone program, based on interviews with local residents and non-governmental organizations in the volatile tribal regions of northwest Pakistan, where most of the strikes are carried out.
U.N. officials also conducted interviews in Yemen and the Sahel region in Africa, to gather details on U.S. armed drone strikes in those areas.
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.
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.”
As UN officials continue work on the report, congressional lawmakers are planning to hold hearings next week on the legal implications of the armed drone program.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on the issue next Tuesday, focusing specifically on the legal implications of drones use inside the United States.
The hearings were set off by the Justice Department's disclosure in February that U.S. military or intelligence officials can launch a targeted drone strike against terror suspects overseas, even if those suspects are American citizens.
In March, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) filibustered the confirmation of John Brennan to lead the CIA for nearly 13 hours, questioning whether the White House could target Americans on U.S. soil.
Attorney General Eric Holder eventually sent a letter to Paul, clearly stating the United States has no right to target American citizens on U.S. soil with armed drones.