US killing of Iran's Qassem Soleimani 'unlawful': UN expert

President Trump ordered the killing in a
drone strike
near Baghdad international airport in January.

The US drone strike that killed Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani was “unlawful”, the United Nations expert on extrajudicial killings concluded in a report on Tuesday.

US President Donald Trump ordered the killing in a January 3 drone strike near Baghdad international airport.

Soleimani was “the world’s top terrorist” and “should have been terminated long ago”, Trump said at the time.

Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was also killed in the attack.

Callamard concluded that it was an “arbitrary killing” that violated the UN charter.

“In light of the evidence that the US has provided to date, the targeting of General Soleimani, and the deaths of those accompanying him, constitute an arbitrary killing for which, under IHRL (international human rights law), the US is responsible,” said Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, in her report published on Tuesday. 

She said the strike violated the UN Charter, with “insufficient evidence provided of an ongoing or imminent attack”, she wrote, adding that the US had provided no evidence that an imminent attack against US interest was being planned.

The independent rights expert does not speak for the UN but reports her findings to it.

Her report on targeted killings through armed drones – around half of which deals with the Soleimani case – is to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva on Thursday. 

The United States withdrew from the council in 2018.

“No evidence has been provided that General Soleimani specifically was planning an imminent attack against US interests, particularly in Iraq, for which immediate action was necessary and would have been justified,” Callamard said.

“No evidence has been provided that a drone strike in a third country was necessary or that the harm caused to that country was proportionate to the harm allegedly averted.

“Soleimani was in charge of Iran’s military strategy, and actions, in Syria and Iraq. But absent an actual imminent threat to life, the course of action taken by the US was unlawful.”

The killing of Soleimani, who headed the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, provoked enormous outpourings of grief in Iran.

Tehran retaliated by firing a volley of ballistic missiles at US troops stationed in Iraq. While the attack on the western Iraqi base of Ain al-Assad killed no US soldiers, dozens suffered brain trauma.

Callamard’s report addresses targeted killings through armed drones, in light of the proliferation in drone use and their expanding capability during the last five years.

It makes recommendations designed to regulate their use and enhance accountability.

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