US drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen

In October 2013 Amnesty International published a report on drone strikes in Pakistan entitled “’Will I be next?’ US drone strikes in Pakistan”.

The USA must be held to account for drone killings in Pakistan

"Secrecy surrounding the drones program 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 program and hold those responsible for these violations to account"

“What hope for redress can there be for victims of drone attacks and their families when the USA won’t even acknowledge its responsibility for particular strikes?”

Contrary to official claims that those killed were “terrorists”, Amnesty International’s research indicates that the victims of these attacks were not involved in fighting and posed no threat to life.

“We cannot find any justification for these killings. There are genuine threats to the USA and its allies in the region, and drone strikes may be lawful in some circumstances. But it is hard to believe that a group of labourers, or an elderly woman surrounded by her grandchildren, were endangering anyone at all, let alone posing an imminent threat to the United States,” said Qadri.

“The tragedy is that drone aircraft deployed by the USA over Pakistan now instill the same kind of fear in the people of the tribal areas that was once associated only with al-Qa’ida and the Taliban,” said Qadri.

Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International’s Pakistan Researcher

Tue, 22/10/2013

International law prohibits arbitrary killing and limits the lawful use of intentional lethal force to exceptional situations. In armed conflict, only combatants and people directly participating in hostilities may be directly targeted. Outside armed conflict, intentional lethal force is lawful only when strictly unavoidable to protect against an imminent threat to life . In some circumstances arbitrary killing can amount to a war crime or extrajudicial execution, which are crimes under international law.

The USA continues to rely on a “global war” doctrine to attempt to justify a borderless war with al-Qa’ida, the Taliban and those perceived to be their allies.

Amnesty International is calling on:

The US authorities to:

  • Publicly disclose the facts and legal basis for drone strikes carried out in Pakistan and information about any investigation into killings by US drones.
  • Ensure prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into all cases where there are reasonable grounds to believe that drone strikes resulted in unlawful killings.
  • Bring those responsible for unlawful drone strikes to justice in public and fair trials without recourse to the death penalty.
  • Ensure that victims of unlawful drone strikes, including family members of victims of unlawful killings, have effective access to justice, compensation and other remedies.

The Pakistani authorities to:

  • Provide adequate access to justice and reparations for victims of US drone strikes and attacks by Pakistan forces, and seek reparations and other remedies for drone strikes from the US authorities.
  • Bring to justice, in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty, individuals responsible for unlawful killings and other human rights abuses in North Waziristan. This should include US drone strikes, attacks by the Pakistan armed forces, or groups like the Taliban and al-Qa’ida.
  • Publicly disclose information on all US drone strikes that the Pakistani authorities are aware of, including casualties and all assistance provided to victims.

The international community to:

  • Oppose US drone strikes and other killings that violate international law and urge the USA and Pakistan to take the measures outlined above. States should officially protest and pursue remedies under international law when lethal force is unlawfully used by the USA or other states.
  • Refrain from participating in any way in US drone strikes that violate international law, including by sharing intelligence or facilities.