Campaign seeks arrest of ex-CIA legal chief who authorized drone attacks
A group of human rights lawyers working in cooperation with relatives of the victims of US drone attacks in Pakistan is calling for an international arrest warrant to be served on former CIA legal counsel John A. Rizzo on charges of murder.
The first step in their effort will be the filing of an information report next week at a police station in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on behalf of relatives of two people killed in drone strikes in 2009. According to the Guardian, the report will “allege Rizzo should be charged with conspiracy to murder a large number of Pakistani citizens.”
Rizzo, who retired from the CIA in 2009, told Newsweek in an interview last winter that he was the person who signed off on the CIA’s “lethal operations.” “It’s basically a hit list,” Rizzo explained. “The Predator is the weapon of choice, but it could also be someone putting a bullet in your head.”
Rizzo has also described himself as having been “up to my eyeballs” in the “enhanced interrogation” program conducted by the Bush administration at its network of CIA secret prisons. It was his request for clarification on permissible interrogation techniques that led to the issuing of John Yoo’s infamous “torture memo” in August 2002.
The campaign against Rizzo is being led by British lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Reprieve, who is well known for his opposition to the death penalty in the U.S. and for having filed lawsuits on behalf of over a hundred Guantanamo detainees. The US drone attacks are his latest cause.
“‘Bugsplat,'” Smith tweeted sarcastically this Tuesday. “Typically tasteful official US military term for killing people with drone missile.”
Although the United States insists that no more than a few dozen Pakistani non-combatants have been killed in drone attacks targeted at militants, other sources put the number around 1000 and Smith offers an estimate of 2500.
“The issue here is that this is not a war,” Smith explained to the Guardian. “There is zero chance, given the current political situation in Pakistan, that we will not get a warrant for Rizzo. The question is what happens next. We can try for extradition and the US will refuse. Interpol, I believe, will have to issue a warrant because there is no question that it is a legitimate complaint.”
“The pursuit of Rizzo will further damage US-Pakistani relations, which are already under severe strain following years of drone attacks and the killing of Osama bin Laden in May,” the Guardian notes in conclusion.