UN says US drone strike on Iran’s Qassem Soleimani violates international law

Felicity Salina, International Law Officer

The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, concluded in her report issued last Tuesday that the US drone strike which killed Iran’s top military general Qassem Soleimani constituted a violation of international law. The report highlights Soleimani’s death as the first instance where a State has openly claimed responsibility for a targeted killing of a high-ranking foreign official through the deployment of drones.

“Major General Soleimani was in charge of Iran military strategy, and actions, in Syria and Iraq. But absent an actual imminent threat to life, the course of action taken by the U.S. was unlawful,” the report states.
Callamard’s report explores the trend of drone or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) usage in warfare. According to the expert, the increased use of weaponized drone carries risks of destabilizing global peace and security. “Most drones use of force remain largely secretive operations, with little to no oversight by independent bodies. They carry little political cost for politicians and the militaries because they do not involve troops on the ground, and the risks to the lives of those operating drones are minimal,” she said in a recent interview.

Since the incident on January 3, Iran has issued an arrest warrant for US President Donald Trump and 35 others supposedly involved in authorizing and carrying out the strike. The INTERPOL has also been seized to assist, according to Tehran prosecutor Ali Alqasimerh.

Read the Special Rapporteur report here: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Executions/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx.

Check out the interview here: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/07/qa-agnes-callamard-drone-strike-killed-soleimani-200711080404877.html.