"Will I be Next?" US Drone Strikes in Pakistan

Nabeela, eight-year-old granddaughter of drone strike victim Mamana Bibi.
October 22, 2013

"Will I be Next?" US Drone Strikes in Pakistan

The prevailing secrecy surrounding drone strikes, restrictions on access to drone-affected areas, and the refusal of the US administration to explain the international legal basis for individual attacks raise concerns that other strikes in the Tribal Areas may have also violated human rights. This includes drone strikes before 2012, the period prior to the incidents documented in this report, when killings were more frequent and widespread across these areas.

Armed groups operating in North Waziristan have been responsible for unlawful killings and other abuses constituting war crimes and other crimes under international law in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Pakistan has a very poor record of bringing these perpetrators to justice in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty. Since the creation of Pakistan, North Waziristan and the rest of the Tribal Areas have been neglected and under-developed, and their residents do not enjoy key human rights protections under Pakistani and international law.

Obligation to investigate

All states have a duty to take robust action to protect the life and physical integrity of people within their jurisdiction, and to bring to justice perpetrators of crimes under international law. But in doing so, these governments must respect their obligations under international human rights law and, in the exceptional situations where it applies, under international humanitarian law (also known as the laws of war).

Amnesty International calls on the USA to comply with its obligations under international law to ensure thorough, impartial, and independent investigations are conducted into the killings documented in this report. The USA should make public information it has about all drone strikes carried out in Pakistan. The US authorities should investigate all reports of civilian casualties from drone strikes. 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.

Amnesty International is also extremely concerned about the failure of the Pakistani authorities to protect and enforce the rights of victims of drone strikes. Pakistan stands accused of a range of human rights failings: from the possible complicity of some organs or officials of the Pakistan state in unlawful killings resulting from the US drones program, to the failure to protect people in the Tribal Areas from unlawful drone strikes or to adequately assist victims of such strikes. 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.

Apart from Pakistan, other states, including Australia, Germany and the UK, appear to be providing intelligence and other assistance to the USA in carrying out drone strikes. In tackling threats from armed groups in the Tribal Areas, Pakistan, the USA and other states providing assistance must act in full conformity with their obligations under international human rights law and, where applicable, international humanitarian law. Secrecy, technology and an elastic interpretation of law and policy may have given the USA unrivalled access to one of the most remote and lawless parts of the world. But immediate security concerns, whether real or perceived, must not and cannot be addressed by trampling on the rights of people living in Pakistan's tribal areas.


Amnesty International conducted research for this report from late 2012 to September 2013. The organization carried out over 60 interviews with survivors of drone strikes, relatives of victims, eyewitnesses, residents of affected areas, members of armed groups and Pakistani government officials. These took place in North Waziristan, neighboring areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Interviews were conducted in Pashto, Urdu, and English.

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