US government challenged on drone tactics

GENEVA — A UN human rights specialist accused the US government Wednesday of sidestepping his questions on its use of armed drones to carry out targeted killings overseas.

Christof Heyns, the UN’s independent investigator on ­extrajudicial killings, had asked the United States to lay out the legal basis and accountability procedures for the use of armed drones.

He also wants the United States to publish figures on the number of civilians killed in drone strikes against suspected terror leaders in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere.


After a two-day ‘‘interactive dialogue’’ with US officials at the United Nations in Geneva, Heyns said he was still waiting for a satisfactory reply.

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US officials did not explicitly mention the use of drones in the debate, but a written submission to the council cited three speeches by US administration officials that discussed counterterrorism operations.

In one of those speeches, President Obama’s counterterrorism chief, John Brennan, acknowledged in April that the nation uses remotely piloted aircraft to conduct targeted killings of suspected Al Qaeda members ‘‘to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and to save American lives.’’

Brennan said the attacks are a legal, ethical, and wise way of conducting sensitive counterterrorism operations.