U.N. Expert Brands Soleimani Killing Illegal as Iran Demands U.S. Compensation

A top United Nations human rights investigator said Monday that the U.S. assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani in January was a violation of international law, citing the continued failure of President Donald Trump's administration to justify the killing.

Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said the U.S. had not supplied evidence to show that the drone strike outside Baghdad International Airport was required to stop an ongoing or imminent attack, Reuters reported.

Soleimani was the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' clandestine Quds Force and credited with masterminding Iran's regional strategy. He directed Tehran's extensive network of proxy forces across the Middle East and was considered the second most powerful figure within the regime.

He was killed on January 3 along with nine others—including top Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis after attacks on American facilities and personnel in Iraq attributed to Iranian-backed Iraqi militias.

At the time, the Trump administration claimed Soleimani was killed to stop imminent attacks on American interests in the region. The administration claimed to have evidence to support the assertion but never presented any, despite calls to do so from the international community and U.S. lawmakers.

Callamard—who is an independent investigator—told Reuters Tuesday: "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."

Callamard will present a report on drone use to the Human Rights Council on Thursday. U.S. representatives will not be present to hear her findings as the Trump administration withdrew from the body in 2018.

In her report, Callamard says 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 U.S. was unlawful." She adds that the killing is the first known incident of a nation claiming self-defense to justify an attack on a state actor in a third country.

Iran has issued an arrest warrant for Trump and dozens of others over the killing. Last month, Tehran prosecutor Ali Alqasimehr also asked Interpol to issue a red notice for Trump's arrest. Interpol told Newsweek it would not act on the request as it would contravene the organization's constitution.

Soleimani's assassination is part of Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran, which began in 2018 when the president withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—colloquially known as the Iran nuclear deal.

The U.S. has since re-applied sanctions on Iran and called on the other JCPOA signatories to do the same, though so far with limited success. Iran has repeatedly called on the U.S. to lift the sanctions, claiming the measures are undermining its ability to fight the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The Trump administration has repeatedly rejected this complaint, pointing out that the sanctions allow for the import of medical supplies. But Tehran has said the sanctions block financial transactions and discourage nations and organizations from dealing with Iran, even if humanitarian supplies are technically allowed.

On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the next U.S. administration—whether led by Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden—should compensate Tehran for the financial losses caused by sanctions.

"It is not important for us who will win the upcoming election in the U.S., but it is important for us to see Washington rectify its approach towards Tehran," Zarif said, according to the Tasnim News Agency.

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A portrait of slain Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani is pictured on the main road leading to the airport in the Lebanese capital Beirut on January 11, 2020. JOSEPH EID/AFP via Getty Images/Getty