Pompeo slams UN report on deadly US drone strike on Iranian

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, July 8, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Pool via AP)

GENEVA – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has criticized an independent U.N. human rights expert's report insisting a American drone strike that killed a top Iranian general in January was a “watershed” event in the use of drones and amounted to a violation of international law.

The report presented by Agnes Callamard to the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council on Thursday chronicled events around the death of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and the legal implications of his killing as part of a broader look on the use of drone strikes.

Callamard, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions who has been commissioned by the council, called the January strike in Iraq “the first known incident in which a state invokes self-defense as justification for an attack against a government official outside a declared armed conflict."

Pompeo said in a statement late Thursday that the U.S. rejected her report and “opinions.”

“Ms. Callamard’s conclusions are spurious,” he said. “The strike that killed Gen. Soleimani was in response to an escalating series of armed attacks in preceding months by the Islamic Republic of Iran and militias it supports on U.S. forces and interests in the Middle East region.”

Pompeo said the strike on Baghdad International Airport was carried out “to deter Iran from launching or supporting further attacks against the United States or U.S. interests, and to degrade the capabilities of the Qods Force.” He said Callamard “gives more cause to distrust U.N. human rights mechanisms.”

The Trump administration pulled the United States out of the rights council two years ago, accusing it of an anti-Israel bias and alleging that it is too accepting of autocratic regimes that regularly abuse human rights.

Callamard is perhaps best known for leading an investigation into the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi national, and issuing a scathing report on the actions of Saudi officials.