• Press Release

Amnesty International: USA Must Investigate Unlawful Drone Killings in Pakistan

October 22, 2013

Contact: Gabe Cahn, [email protected], 202.776.7700, c: 202.412.1678

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – New evidence indicates that the U.S. has carried out unlawful drone killings in Pakistan, some of which could amount to war crimes or extrajudicial executions, Amnesty International said in a major new report released today.

The report, “’Will I be next?’ US drone strikes in Pakistan” provides new evidence that through drone strikes, the U.S. has killed people who posed no apparent threat to life, including 68-year-old woman Mamana Bibi and 14-year-old boy Saleh Khan.

“Instead of hiding the truth, the U.S. must take responsibility,” said Steven Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “It should be investigating unlawful killings, coming clean about who’s being killed, and holding those responsible to account.”

Amnesty International released the report in a joint news conference with Human Rights Watch, which issued its own report on drone and other air strikes in Yemen.

Based on rare access to North Waziristan, the region in Pakistan where most drone strikes have occurred, Amnesty International conducted detailed field research into nine drone strikes that occurred between January 2012 and August 2013 and which raise serious questions about violations of the right to life.

Among them is the October 2012 killing of 68-year old grandmother Mamana Bibi. She was killed in a double strike, apparently by a Hellfire missile, as she picked vegetables in the family’s fields and while surrounded by a handful of her grandchildren.

“We cannot find any justification for these killings,” said Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International’s Pakistan Researcher. “There are genuine threats to the U.S. 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 laborers, or a grandmother surrounded by her grandchildren, were endangering anyone at all, let alone posing an imminent threat to the United States.”

Amnesty International also documented cases of so-called “rescuer attacks” in which those who ran to the aid of the victims of an initial drone strike were themselves targeted in a follow-on attack. In a July 2012 case, 18 laborers, including 14-year-old Saleh Khan, were killed in multiple strikes on an impoverished village close to the border with Afghanistan as they were about to enjoy an evening meal at the end of a long day of work. Witnesses described a macabre scene of body parts and blood, panic and terror, as U.S. drones continued to hover overhead.

In addition to the threat of U.S. drone strikes, people in North Waziristan are frequently caught between attacks by armed groups and Pakistan’s armed forces. Al-Qa’ida-linked groups have killed dozens of local villagers they accused of being spies for U.S. drone strikes.

People injured – from drone strikes, attacks by armed groups or Pakistan armed forces – have died from their wounds because hospitals were inaccessible or local medical help was inadequate.

Survivors of drone strikes and families of the victims have little or no chance of securing justice. U.S. authorities have failed to acknowledge responsibility for specific strikes, let alone establish a mechanism for investigating killings and providing redress where appropriate.

In May 2013, President Obama promised to increase transparency about drone strikes. But the Administration has yet to officially disclose any new information about drone policy, the legal framework or particular strikes.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are jointly calling on the U.S. Congress to fully investigate the cases the two organizations have documented and other potentially unlawful deaths, and to disclose any evidence of human rights violations to the public.

Amnesty International’s Key Recommendations to the U.S. Government:

  • President Obama should disclose the facts and legal basis for the killings documented in this report. He should immediately commit to ensuring independent and impartial investigations into these killings and any other cases where there is reasonable ground to believe that drone strikes resulted in unlawful killings.
  • The Intelligence and Armed Services committees of Congress, which are charged with oversight of the CIA and Department of Defense, respectively, should promptly launch independent and impartial investigations into the killings documented in this report, and all cases where there is reasonable ground to believe that drone strikes resulted in unlawful killings.
  • The U.S. government should ensure that victims of unlawful drone strikes, including family members of victims of unlawful killings, have effective access to remedies, including reparation for harm suffered. Where there is sufficient admissible evidence, the U.S. should bring those responsible to justice in public and fair trials without recourse to the death penalty.
  • The U.S. government should end its practice of secrecy and disclose key factual and legal information about the drone program, including all available information on the number and identity of people killed or injured from drone strikes in Pakistan.

Read more:

For more information and to schedule interviews, please contact:
Gabe Cahn, [email protected], 202.776.7700, c: 202.412.1678

Available for Interviews in Washington, D.C.:
Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International Pakistan Researcher
Naureen Shah, Amnesty International USA Advocacy Advisor
Zeke Johnson, Amnesty International USA Director of the Security & Human Rights Program

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.