In the face of mounting criticism about US and UK drone strikes, the United Nations is going to investigate the use of drones in targeted killings in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, reports the Guardian. The investigation will look at drone strikes in Mali and those made by Israel into the Palestinian territories. It will focus on 20 to 30 American and British strikes, exploring civilian deaths involved, the identity of militants targeted, and the legality of attacks in countries where the UN has not recognized hostilities. One of the countries pushing for the investigation is Pakistan, where drone strikes between June 2004 and September 2012 have killed as many as 3,325 people, including 881 civilians and 176 children.
Findings are due to the UN general assembly in the autumn. Among the potential findings, some want "double tap" drone strikes—when a second drone attack kills rescuers responding to an initial attack—to be labeled war crimes. "One of the fundamental questions is whether aerial targeting using drones is an appropriate method of conflict … where the individuals are embedded in a local community," says the UN official slated to lead the investigation. (Read more drone strike stories.)