UNITED NATIONS - While calling for an end to armed drones strikes, a top Pakistani diplomat has backed the UN human right chief’s demand that the United states and Israel clarify the legal basis for the use of unmanned aircraft in Pakistan, Yemen and Gaza.

“We believe that such strikes violate international humanitarian law; and therefore should be stopped,” Pakistan U.N. Ambassador Masood Khan told the Security Council’s open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

The move to seek clarification of the legal basis for armed drone strikes was made by Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a speech she earlier to the 15-member Council on Monday.

“I urge relevant States to clarify the legal basis for such strikes, as well as the safeguards in place to ensure compliance with applicable international law,”  Ms. Pillay said without naming the U.S. and Israel, but her reference to the two allied states was clear.

The current lack of transparency surrounding their use, she said, created an “accountability vacuum” and affected the ability of victims to seek redress.

Pillay said she is “seriously concerned about human rights implications for the protection of civilians of armed drone strikes carried out in the context of counter-terrorism and military  operations, including in Pakistan, Yemen and Gaza.

In his speech, Pakistani ambassador Masood Khan urged intensification of talks on the questions relating to the use of drones.

“We endorse the Secretary General’sviews that these principles also  apply to the use of new technologies, including  armed drones. We support High Commissioner Navi Pillay’s call made today for clarifying the legal basis of armed drones strikes.”

The Pakistani envoy said that, even as the Council was meeting, wars and conflicts were unfolding, with the majority of their victims, civilians.  Despite established norms and laws, the “abysmal” state of civilians in armed conflicts had changed little, he said, adding that it was imperative to translate strategy into action on the ground.

Compliance with international law was sporadic at best or none at all; there were obstacles to humanitarian access and accountability was often weak or non-existent. When considering the protection of civilians, special measures should be taken to support vulnerable groups, such as women, children, refugees and internally displaced persons, Masood Khan said.

He said that the protection of civilians was the primary responsibility of States, however, as a major troop contributor,   Pakistan had first-hand experience in protecting civilians; based on that experience, it felt that sufficient resources should be provided to peacekeeping troops.  In addition, the term “protection of civilians” should also always be used with utmost precision to avoid giving legitimacy to armed terrorist groups.