At a packed Harvard Law School event co-sponsored by the Human Rights Program and the Harvard National Security and Law Association, Ben Emmerson, United Nations special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, announced plans to launch an investigation into the use of drone attacks which have caused civilian deaths—including those carried out by the U.S.

“I will be launching an investigation unit within the special procedures of the [U.N.] Human Rights Council to inquire into individual drone attacks, and other forms of targeted killings conducted in counterterrorism operations, in which it has been alleged that civilian casualties have been inflicted,” Emmerson told the Law School audience on Thursday, Oct. 25.

The unit will be established early next year in Geneva, with South African Christof Heyns, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and a former visiting fellow with the Human Rights Program.

During his talk, Emmerson described the principal challenges currently facing his mandate, including recent developments on the accountability of public officials for involvement in the U.S. policies of targeted killing, torture, secret detention and rendition. He addressed the positions taken on some of these key issues by the candidates to the U.S. presidential election, and gave an overview of the human rights issues currently heading the U.N.’s counterterrorism agenda.

See a video of Emmerson’s talk on the Harvard Law School website.