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British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith of the campaign group Reprieve, and lawyers in Pakistan are seeking an international arrest warrant for John Rizzo, who was until recently acting general counsel for the American intelligence agency, for approving drone attacks that have so far killed hundreds of people in Pakistan.

According to a report published in The Guardian on Friday, the lawyers are also building cases against other individuals, including drone operators interviewed or photographed during organised press facilities.

An FIR, the first step in seeking a prosecution of Rizzo in Pakistan, is expected to be formally lodged early next week at a police station in the capital, Islamabad, on behalf of the relatives of two people killed in drone strikes in 2009.

The report will also allege Rizzo should be charged with conspiracy to murder a large number of Pakistani citizens.

Now retired, Rizzo, 63, is being pursued after admitting in aninterview with the magazine Newsweek that since 2004 he had approved one drone attack order a month on targets in Pakistan, even though the US is not at war with the country.

Although US government lawyers have tried to argue that drone strikes are conducted on a ‘solid legal basis’, some believe the civilians who operate the drones could be classified as ‘unlawful combatants’.

While Stafford Smith of Reprieve estimates the drones caused around 2,500 civilian deaths, others say the number is closer to 1,000. US sources deny large numbers of civilian deaths and say only a few dozen “non-combatants” have been killed.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2011.

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