Amnesty International obtained rare access to some parts of North Waziristan, where more drone strikes have occurred over the past two years than anywhere else in Pakistan. Amnesty International corroborated written and oral testimony against photographic and video evidence and satellite imagery for every strike discussed in this report. Through this research, Amnesty International was able to determine the exact locations of the two main drone strikes documented in this report.
Obtaining reliable information about drone strikes in North Waziristan is extremely difficult due to ongoing insecurity and barriers on independent monitoring imposed by armed groups like the Taliban and the Pakistani military. Independent observers risk accusations of espionage, abduction and death at the hands of these actors for seeking to shed light on human rights in North Waziristan. In addition, the Pakistani military restricts access to the region on the grounds of security risks, which are a legitimate concern, but also to tightly manage reporting on the area. Given the highly politicized debate around the US drones program in Pakistan, Amnesty International was also concerned that local actors would seek to influence its research by coercing those interviewed for this report, or providing false or inaccurate information. To address this, Amnesty International assembled a number of local investigative teams, which worked independently from one other, and then cross-corroborated the information they gathered, including against other sources.
The Pakistan armed forces did not allow Amnesty International to travel to North Waziristan with them, citing security concerns. However, it agreed in principle to escort the organization to South Waziristan, which has also faced significant drone strikes. In any event, victims and residents said that they were reluctant to meet in North Waziristan during any visit facilitated by and under escort from the armed forces out of fear of retribution from them or from armed groups; for example, if they criticized the conduct of Pakistani forces, or armed groups, or for being seen as aligned with the Pakistani military. Given these obstacles, Amnesty International was not able to conduct on-site investigations in all areas targeted by drone strikes documented in this report, especially those carried out in 2013.
Many of the people interviewed for this report did so at great personal risk, knowing that they might face reprisals from US or Pakistani authorities, the Taliban, or other groups. They spoke out because they were anxious to make known the human cost of the drone program, and the impact on themselves and their communities of living in a state of fear. One witness said:
It is difficult to trust anyone. I can't even trust my own brother… After I spoke to you some men in plain clothes visited me [in North Waziristan]. I don't know who they were, whether they were Taliban or someone else; they were not from our village. I was clearly warned not to give any more information about the victims of drone strikes. They told me it is fine if I continue to do my work but I should not share any information with the people who come here.
Amnesty International discussed the possible risks carefully with the people who provided information for this report, and wishes to thank all those who shared their stories with us despite the dangers, as well as those who assisted in the research in other ways. However, because of ongoing security concerns, many of the names in this report have been changed to protect the identity of those who spoke with us, and we continue to monitor the situation of our contacts. Most of the Pakistani officials we spoke to also requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issues.