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Two Human Rights Groups Target U.S. Drone Policy as Illegal
Posted on Oct 22, 2013
Two notable human rights advocacy groups Tuesday took aim at the United States’ highly controversial—and possibly illegal—use of drones in separate reports that offered chillingly detailed looks at the effects of a foreign policy that has killed hundreds of people, many of whom have nothing to do with militant insurgencies.
The U.S. government has been silent on the policy, other than to defend it in general terms. But the two new reports suggest that the Obama administration needs to review how it deploys and uses drones—with one eye on international law. Amnesty International, citing statistics compiled by Pakistani officials and nongovernmental organizations, estimates the U.S. launched as many as 374 drone strikes in Pakistan from 2004 to the end of last month, killing as many as 900 civilians and seriously injuring at least 600 others.
Amnesty, in its report, decided to deep-dive into 45 reported strikes in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal agency between January 2012 and August 2013. The region is “one of the seven tribal agencies that make up the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Tribal Areas), a loosely-governed territory in the northwest.”
The report notes that the region is relatively lawless and rife with Islamist militants, including al-Qaida soldiers, despite the presence of Pakistani military troops, and that its residents often “do not enjoy key human rights protections under Pakistani and international law.” But that’s no justification for blowing them up as they go about their daily lives.
Amnesty International called on the U.S. to adhere to international law and allow “thorough, impartial, and independent investigations” into the deaths; make public details on all drone strikes in Pakistan; investigate civilian casualties; and “where there is sufficient admissible evidence that individuals may be responsible for an unlawful killing or other serious human rights violation, the authorities must ensure they are brought to justice in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty. Victims of violations must be provided with compensation and meaningful access to full reparation including restitution, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition.”
Human Rights Watch was equally harsh in its assessment of U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, another popular target, and directly accused the U.S. of violating international law in going after suspected members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP):
Like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch called on the U.S. to offer more transparency and accountability into the drone strikes program, and open itself to investigations of possible violations of international law. It also recommended the U.S. “abide by US policy enunciated by President Obama on May 23, 2013, that, where feasible, ‘always … detain’ rather than kill a target, and strike only when there is ‘near-certainty’ that the target is present and that civilians will not be harmed.”
It called for congressional oversight investigations, which one would think, given the current political climate, the House would jump on, though that would likely descend into a meaningless tea party circus. But Human Rights Watch also called for investigations from the United Nations Human Rights Council and other international bodies with the skills and jurisdiction, which could be more meaningful and useful venues.
—Posted by Scott Martelle.
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