A United Nations expert on Monday accused the United States of violating international law with its killing earlier this year of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
The US killed Soleimani, who oversaw the Revolutionary Guard’s expeditionary Quds Force, and others in a January 3 drone strike near Baghdad International Airport.
It came after months of rising tensions between the two countries. The US believed Soleimani was planning an attack on Western forces in the Middle East and also said he was behind attacks on US targets by Iranian proxies.
Iran retaliated to Soleimani’s killing with a ballistic missile strike targeting American troops in Iraq.
Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, called the operation “unlawful” and said Washington had failed to provide sufficient evidence of an immediate threat of an attack that would justify the operation, the Reuters news agency reported Monday.
Callamard, an independent investigator, made the claims in a report calling for accountability for killings using armed drones and for tighter regulation on weapons.
“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 US was unlawful,” she wrote in findings to be presented Thursday to the UN Human Rights Council.
Washington is not a member of the Human Rights Council, having withdrawn in 2018 in protest of its alleged political bias and disproportionate focus on Israel, which includes a permanent agenda item for cases against the Jewish state.
Callamard wrote that Soleimani’s killing was the first known case of a nation claiming self-defense to justify an attack against a state actor in the territory of a third country, Iraq.
“The world is at a critical time, and possible tipping point, when it comes to the use of drones. … The Security Council is missing in action; the international community, willingly or not, stands largely silent,” she told Reuters.
Iran last week issued an arrest warrant for US President Donald Trump and 35 others whom Iran accuses of involvement in the strike. It filed a request with Interpol, the worldwide police cooperation organization, to help arrest them on “murder and terrorism charges.”
Interpol quickly rejected the request, issuing a statement saying its guidelines for notices forbids it from “any intervention or activities of a political” nature. Interpol “would not consider requests of this nature,” it said.
The charges underscore the heightened tensions between Iran and the United States since Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018 and hit Iran with renewed sanctions.
AP contributed to this report.