UN rights expert warns lethal force during arrests could violate international standards

[JURIST] United Nations Special Rapporteur on on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns [official profile], on Thursday urged respect for international standards [press release] concerning the use of lethal force during arrests and warned that the growing use of targeted killings with unmanned drones is legally problematic. Heyns made a report to the UN the General Assembly saying that "International standards provide adequate room for States to pursue their legitimate security interests, both at home and abroad," and warned that abusing these standards to reach short-term goals could cause "long-term damage to the protection of human rights." Heyns said that:

While it is correct that lethal force should not be used unless there is a reasonable suspicion that the suspect has committed a crime involving serious violence, or has threatened to do so, that is not enough. For deadly force to be used by the police, there must be an immediate or ongoing threat to the public if the person were to escape.
Heyns also warned that the use of unmanned drones for targeted killings is dangerous because it leads to a "global war without borders, in which no one is safe." He called for an international discussion on the growing use of unmanned drones.

The United States has been at the center of controversy with using lethal force to arrest international terror suspects and the targeted killings of terrorist leaders with unmanned drone strikes. Last month, a CIA drone strike in Yemen killed [JURIST report] senior al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] leader and US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Last May, US forces killed [JURIST report] al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden [WP obituary; JURIST news archive] while attempting to capture him at his hideout in Pakistan. US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] later defended the killing [JURIST report] saying it was lawful and justified. Testifying before the US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website], Holder said that the shooting of Bin Laden was "consistent with our values," and that the soldiers who killed him "conducted themselves totally appropriately." US State Department [official website] Legal Adviser Harold Koh [official profile] has also defended the legality of both killing Bin Laden and the targeted killings with unmanned drones [JURIST reports].

 

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