UNITED NATIONS, May 25 : A U.N. human rights expert Friday welcomed what he called was a ground-breaking speech by President Barack Obama in which the U.S. leader laid out principles governing the use of counter-terrorism measures such as targeted killings. President Obama said Thursday that, as part of a realignment of US counter-terrorism policy, he would curtail the use of drones, recommit to closing the prison at Guant¡namo Bay, Cuba, and seek new limits on his own war power. The new policy guidance imposes tougher standards for when drone strikes can be authorized, limiting them to targets that pose “a continuing, imminent threat to Americans” and cannot feasibly be captured, according to media reports.
“This extremely important speech breaks new ground in a number of key respects,” the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, said in a press statement.
“It affirms for the first time this Administration’s commitment to seek an end to its armed conflict with Al-Qaeda as soon as possible; it reminds the world that not every terrorist threat or terrorist attack can be equated with a situation of continuing armed conflict; and it sets out more clearly and more authoritatively than ever before the Administration’s legal justifications for targeted killing, and the constraints that it operates under,” he said.
The speech also clarifies, and proposes improvements to, the procedures for independent oversight; and it sets out the steps the President is now resolved to take in order to close Guantanamo Bay, he added. Emmerson said that the publication of the procedural guidelines for the use of force in counter-terrorism operations is “a significant step towards increased transparency and accountability. It also disposes of a number of myths, including the suggestion that the US is entitled to regard all military-aged males as combatants, and therefore as legitimate targets.”
He added that he will be engaging with senior US officials in Washington over the coming days and weeks in an effort “to put some flesh on the bones of the announcements made.” The expert said that Obama’s acknowledgement that the time has come to tackle not only the manifestations of terrorism but also its social, economic and political causes around the world “signals a shift in rhetoric and a move in policy emphasis towards promoting a strategy of sustainable and ethical counter-terrorism.”