Human rights groups in Australia have demanded that the U.N. expand its investigation scope to include Australia's role in the deadly U.S. drone strikes. At a time when the country is gearing up for elections, this news could come as a major embarrassment for the government and stir up discussion on Australia's role in the killing innocent civilians.
Australia based Human Rights Groups
Allegations made by Australia-based Human Rights Law Centre and Human Rights Watch related to media reports concerning the country's direct involvement in the U.S. drone programme in Asia and the Middle East.
An investigation by The Age in July has revealed the "key role" played by the Pine Gap spy base located in central Australia. The report quoted former personnel at the base describing the facility's "outstanding" success in locating and tracking al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders and other insurgent activity in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The joint letter by Australian human rights groups has asked the U.N. to investigate the nature of the Pine Gap base cooperation between U.S. and Australia. They also want the U.N. to probe the extent to which Pine Gap is used to track target before and after a drone strike, particularly in the 25 cases that are subject of inquiry by the U.N. investigation team.
Favourite weapon, but kills more civilians
Although drones have been a favourite weapon for counter-terrorism operations, its use has been a highly emotive issue. Drone strikes have helped in fuelling anti-American feeling in the Af-Pak region. Human rights watchers too have been critical of the use of these remotely controlled strike which studies say have killed more civilians than terrorists.
The U.N. set up a dedicated investigation team early this year to examine the legality of drone strikes that have killed several civilians in so-called "targeted" counter-terrorism operation.
Critical of US lack of Monitoring
The head of the U.N. team Ben Emmerson, the Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism had in March visited Pakistan and said that the drone strikes violated Pakistan's sovereignty. He has been critical of the U.S. failure to establish effective monitoring process.
This demand by human rights groups in Australia comes at a time when the country has begun pulling out of Afghanistan ahead of the closure of their main Australian Defence Force base on Dec 31.
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