Two leading human rights groups released detailed reports on U.S. drone strikes Tuesday that accuse the government of killing civilians and violating international law. The White House admitted killing civilians, but denied breaking the law, saying the strikes were “precise” and “lawful.”
Amnesty International, which studied 45 drone strikes in Pakistan in 2012 and 2013, said the U.S. violated the internationally recognized “right to life” and may have committed war crimes. They state,
“The Obama administration claims its use of lethal force, including with drones, is “legal”, “ethical”, and “wise”. But Amnesty International is gravely concerned that the administration is killing people outside the bounds of human rights and the law. International law permits the use of lethal force in very restricted circumstances. But from the little information made available to the public, U.S. drone strike policy appears to allow extrajudicial executions in violation of the right to life, virtually anywhere in the world. Public outcry over the killer drone program is growing, leading to President Obama and Congress addressing the issue. Despite all the talk that new laws, rules or a “kill court” are needed, the solution is simple: the Obama administration must follow the law. Congress and the courts must hold them to it.
Urge the U.S. government to follow international law that restricts the use of lethal force.”
“There are real threats to the U.S. in the region,” said Naureen Shah, Amnesty’s advocacy adviser, “but it is hard to imagine that a 68-year-old grandmother or a 14-year-old boy are among them. Something clearly went wrong and the U.S. government needs to come clean.”
On March 15, Ben Emmerson, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counterterrorism, released a statement that categorically declared the CIA drone program a “violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.” That statement followed three days of secret meetings with Pakistani officials, who told Emmerson that they had confirmed 400 civilian deaths in drone strikes since the program began in 2004.
In Pakistan, popular support for CIA drone strikes is virtually non-existent. Although public opinion in favor of drone strikes remains quite high in the United States, the targeted killing campaign has come under increasing fire of late from human rights organizations, Congress, and even former U.S. government officials. The New America Foundation’s National Security Studies Program is pleased to invite you to a conversation with Emmerson about his work investigating human rights violations in the “war on terror,” particularly in relation to the CIA drone program.
PARTICIPANTS include: Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Peter Bergen, Director, National Security Studies Program, New America Foundation
This week, Human Rights Watch, which focused on six drone strikes in Yemen over the past four years, said the U.S. is undermining its own efforts against AL Qaeda with drone attacks.
The 102-page report, “‘Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda’: The Civilian Cost of US Targeted Killings in Yemen,”examines six US targeted killings in Yemen, one from 2009 and the rest from 2012-2013. Two of the attacks killed civilians indiscriminately in clear violation of the laws of war; the others may have targeted people who were not legitimate military objectives or caused disproportionate civilian deaths.
“The US says it is taking all possible precautions during targeted killings, but it has unlawfully killed civilians and struck questionable military targets in Yemen,” said Letta Tayler, senior terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch and the author of the report. “Yemenis told us that these strikes make them fear the US as much as they fear Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.”
Human Rights Watch released “‘Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda’” in a joint news conference on October 22, 2013, with Amnesty International, which issued its own report on US drone strikes in Pakistan.