In a remarkable ruling (pdf), the Peshawar High Court has ruled that US drone strikes carried out within Pakistan are illegal, that they are war crimes and that they must be stopped immediately. The court also directed Pakistan’s military to intervene should drones enter Pakistan air space.
As described by Alice Ross at The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, this ruling comes in a case brought by the son of one of the tribal elders killed in the March 17, 2011 drone strike that killed as many as 40 innocent elders gathered to discuss mineral rights:
The judgment applies to a lengthy case against the CIA brought by the Foundation for Fundamental Rights on behalf of Noor Khan, a tribesman whose father was among dozens of civilians killed in a drone strike on a gathering of tribal elders on March 17 2011. Last year, Noor Khan also attempted to bring legal action against the UK government for providing information that could lead to deaths in drone strikes, in a case backed by legal charity Reprieve. The attempt was refused but he is appealing.
Lawyer Shahzad Akbar, who argued the Peshawar case, said: ‘It is a landmark judgment: drone victims in Waziristan will now get some justice after a long wait. This ruling will also prove to be a test for the new government as if drones continue and government fails to act, it will run the risk of contempt of court.’
The Independent described the case and ruling further:
In what activists said was an historic decision, the Peshawar High Court issued the verdict against the strikes by CIA-operated spy planes in response to four petitions that contended the attacks killed civilians and caused “collateral damage”.
Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan, who headed a two-judge bench that heard the petitions, ruled the drone strikes were illegal, inhumane and a violation of the UN charter on human rights. The court said the strikes must be declared a war crime as they killed innocent people.
“The government of Pakistan must ensure that no drone strike takes place in the future,” the court said, according to the Press Trust of India. It asked Pakistan’s foreign ministry to table a resolution against the American attacks in the UN.
“If the US vetoes the resolution, then the country should think about breaking diplomatic ties with the US,” the judgment said.
For more background on the Peshawar High Court itself, this web page describes its jurisdiction and also has links to its history and other relevant information.
The ruling itself runs 22 pages. It begins by reciting the facts and requests provided by the petitioners to the court (emphasis added): Continue reading