On Thursday, 23 June Channel 4 News reported on ORG's finding that there is a legal obligation to record all casualties of conflict, and that this applies to the CIA drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen.
The article can be viewed on channel4.com and is reproduced in full below.
'Hit and Run' Drone Strikes Are 'Breaking Laws of War'
Nations which carry out drone attacks must confirm and report who is killed, say lawyers in a newly published study on the legality of attacks by the unmanned aircraft.
Thursday, 23rd June 2011
The use of US drones to kill suspected militants along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan could be breaking international law in cases of "hit and run" attacks.
Independent think-tank Oxford Research Group (ORG) has published a report which claims an "existing but previously unacknowledged requirement in law" has been identified that says all parties involved in drone attacks are legally obliged to search for and identify all persons killed in strikes.
Lead author Dr Susan Breau, Professor of International Law at Flinders University in Australia, said: "It is high time to implement a global casualty recording mechanism which includes civilians so that finally every casualty of every conflict is identified.
"The law requires it, and drones provide no exemption from that requirement."
Download the report in full: Drone Attacks, International Law, and the Recording of Civilian Casualties of Armed Conflict
Channel 4 News spoke to the International Bar Association's Dr Mark Ellis who said that the obligation to identify victims of drone attacks already exists.
But he added: "It is not as absolute as the summary of the report suggests."
The Geneva Convention states that "Parties to the conflict shall ensure that burial or cremation of the dead, carried out individually as far as circumstances permit, is preceded by a careful examination, if possible by a medical examination, of the bodies."
Dr Ellis said the key phrase written into the convention is "as far as circumstances permit".
Pakistan and Yemen
The ORG report sets out recommendations addressing the current situation in Pakistan and Yemen. It states that the United States (as the launcher and controller of drones) has "least justification to shirk its responsibilities" in those countries.
The CIA is understood to be preparing a wave of drone missions targeting al-Qaeda fighters in Yemen. And so far in 2011 there have been 40 drone attacks in Pakistan's Waziristan region.
In 2010 a drone surge of 118 in Pakistan left 500-900 people dead. Since US drones first fired on the country, in 2004, more than 500 civilians are known to have perished.
In a study at the end last year, Channel 4 News learned that women and children had been killed and that in many cases the number of dead following a strike was recorded as "unknown."
A Pakistani lawyer acting for victims of drone strikes is currently mounting legal action on behalf of 25 families.
Speaking in May, Mirza Shahzad Akbar said the victims "had nothing to do with the war on terror" and dismissed claims that Pakistan had "authorised" the airstrikes as "the lamest thing I've heard in my life".
Media coverage on this issue:
‘Drone Warfare: Cost and Challenge’, Paul Rogers on OpenDemocracy
'Conflict Parties 'Legally Obligated' to Record Civilian Casualties', ABC South Australia television interview with Professor Breau
‘Report Questions Legality of Drone Strikes’, Time.com
Read More From ORG:
The discussion paper that this coverage is based on: ‘Discussion Paper: Drone Attacks, International Law, and the Recording of Civilians of Armed Conflict’
Press release on this finding: 'Press Release: Drones Don't Allow Hit and Run - If You Use Drones You Must Confirm and Report Who They Killed, Says Legal Team'
The original discussion paper identifying the legal obligation to record casualties: 'Discussion Paper: The Legal Obligation to Record Civilian Casualties of Armed Conflict'
Our paper discussing different efforts to record the casualties of drone attacks in Pakistan: ‘Working Paper: The Drone Wars and Pakistan’s Conflict Casualties, 2010’