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(WASHINGTON, D.C) - In an open letter to President Obama today, Amnesty International said that the White House should publicly commit to investigating potentially unlawful drone killings. Nearly a month has passed since the December 2013 drone strike that reportedly killed more than a dozen members of a wedding party in Yemen. Yet the U.S. government has failed to publicly commit to investigating that case, just as it has failed to openly investigate potentially unlawful killings Amnesty International documented in Pakistan.
Reportedly, more than 4,700 people have been killed in U.S. drone strikes. The Administration claims to possess reliable information about who has been killed, but refuses to provide basic statistics or confirm specific deaths Amnesty documented, including that of a grandmother and 14-year-old boy. Both killings were detailed in Amnesty International's October 2013 report, 'Will I Be Next?': U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan.
“In effect, the White House’s position is that it claims to knows exactly who it’s killing, but it won’t confirm whether a grandmother or a child were among them,” said Steven Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “That’s simply reckless. The US is shirking its legal obligations, and it’s setting a dangerous precedent for the rest of the world.”
More than 80 other countries have reportedly acquired drone technology. The US is setting a dangerous example of evading accountability for potentially unlawful drone killings, Amnesty said in its letter. In nearly all cases, the US has failed to officially acknowledge responsibility for specific killings, let alone openly investigated credible allegations of potentially unlawful deaths. Under international law, the US must investigate such allegations and provide victims with adequate, effective and prompt reparation for harm suffered.
US officials have responded to Amnesty International’s concerns by referring to President Obama’s May 23, 2013 speech at National Defense University, in which he reaffirmed his commitment to the rule of law and transparency. Yet the Administration’s unwillingness to acknowledge and investigate potentially unlawful killings flies in the face of that commitment.
“Secret killings have become business as usual in Washington,” Hawkins said. “But they’re still untenable and antithetical to the law. By evading accountability, President Obama is undermining his credibility to condemn human rights violations by other governments.”
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million members in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.