22 Oct 2013

US drone killings in Pakistan ‘unlawful’ – Amnesty

Amnesty International says the US could be guilty of war crimes for unlawful killings in Pakistan, carried out by drones.

Amnesty International drones human rights Pakistan

The human rights organisation is calling on the US government to hold to account the officials behind unlawful drone strikes, and to give victims compensation and access to legal proceedings. It is also calling for more transparency from the US about the legal basis behind the drone strikes.

The damning report published on Tuesday, which Amnesty says is the most comprehensive study of the programme from a human rights perspective, also provides new information about alleged victims of attacks, including a 68-year-old grandmother hit while farming with her grandchildren.

Mamana Bibi’s grandchildren told the London-based rights group that she was killed by missile fire on 24 October 2012, as she was collecting vegetables in a family field in the North Waziristan tribal area, a major militant sanctuary near the Afghan border.

The US has said in the past that its Pakistan drone programme is key to fighting insurgent groups from neighbouring Afghanistan.

But the strikes have not been well received in Pakistan, where the perception is that they kill a large number of civilians, and officials are openly critical of the attacks.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry Spokesman Aizaz Chaudhry welcomed the report, and told Geo TV “our point of view is being acknowledged internationally”.

‘Pakistan has a duty’

However Amnesty said it was concerned that Pakistani authorities have failed to protect its citizens from strikes, despite officials’ public actions.

“Amnesty International is also extremely concerned about the failure of the Pakistani authorities to protect and enforce the rights of victims of drone strikes,” said the report.

“Pakistan has a duty to independently and impartially investigate all drone strikes in the country and ensure access to justice and reparation for victims of violations.”

The organisation documented and reviewed all 45 known drone strikes that took place in North Waziristan, north west Pakistan, between January 2012 and August 2013, and concluded that a number of victims were not terrorists, as claimed by the US.

As well as 68-year-old Bibi, they found that multiple attacks on July 2012 killed 18 labourers, including a 14-year-old boy, close to the border with Afghanistan as they were about to eat an evening meal at the end of work.

Amnesty International Pakistan Researcher Mustafa Qadri, author of the report, said: “Secrecy surrounding the drones programme gives the US administration a license to kill beyond the reach of the courts or basic standards of international law.

“It’s time for the USA to come clean about the drones programme and hold those responsible for these violations to account.”