The United States has accused a UN expert of "giving a pass to terrorists" after she concluded that a U.S. drone strike that killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani and nine other people in Iraq early this year was "unlawful."
Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, presented her findings on July 9 to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
In a report released earlier this week, Callamard said the United States had provided no specific evidence that showed Soleimani was planning an imminent attack against U.S. interests, particularly in Iraq, for which immediate action was necessary and would have been justified.
Therefore, the January 3 U.S. drone strike near Baghdad's airport in which Soleimani was killed constituted an "arbitrary killing" for which the United States is responsible under international human rights law, she wrote.
"It takes a special kind of intellectual dishonesty to issue a report condemning the United States for acting in self-defense while whitewashing General Soleimani's notorious past as one of the world's deadliest terrorists," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said on July 8.
"This tendentious and tedious report undermines human rights by giving a pass to terrorists and it proves once again why America was right to leave" the Human Rights Council in 2018, Ortagus said.
In retaliation for the assassination of Soleimani, who headed the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), an Iranian ballistic-missile strike on January 8 targeted U.S. bases in Iraq housing U.S. forces, leaving some 110 U.S. troops suffering from traumatic brain injuries.
According to Callamard, Iran's retaliatory strikes were also unlawful.
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump justified Soleimani's killing by saying he was responsible for orchestrating attacks on U.S. forces for years and in the process of planning further attacks on Americans and U.S. allies in the region.
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of the Iran-backed Kataib Hizbullah militia and deputy head of Iraq's state-sanctioned Popular Mobilization Units, was also killed in the January strike that targeted Soleimani.
Kataib Hizbullah and affiliated Iran-backed militia have been linked to multiple rocket attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, including one in late December that killed a U.S. defense contractor and wounded several U.S. and Iraqi soldiers at a military base in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk.
As the head of the Quds Force, Soleimani was a key figure in supplying weapons and explosive devices to Iraqi insurgents that killed or wounded U.S. soldiers in Iraq following the ouster of Saddam Hussein. He was also the main figure running Iran’s policy in Syria and support for the Lebanese militant group Hizballah.