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CONTACT: Mandy Simon, [email protected]

NEW YORK – Following reports that the Trump administration is seeking to change U.S. government policy on the use of lethal force outside of armed conflicts, Zeke Johnson, senior director of programs for Amnesty International USA, issued the following statement: 

“The policies that guide the United States’ use of lethal force and armed drones, whether under President Obama or President Trump, have always been legally and morally murky. Any move to gut their already weak human rights protections would be unacceptable. The Trump administration needs to ensure that its guidance for operations outside armed conflict comply with human rights law. The administration cannot write itself a blank check to kill with impunity.”

Amnesty International has long-called on the U.S. government to be more transparent about its policy standards and commit to following international law and standards that specify when and how lethal force can be used. The administration must reject the notion of a global war on terror and disclose its definitions of civilian and combatant as well as the basis for deciding who can be targeted. Outside areas of armed conflict, human rights law and policing standards should govern drone operations. In such cases, lethal force may only be used to protect against an imminent threat of death or serious injury.

Amnesty is also calling on the administration to publicly acknowledge when it has used lethal force and conduct independent, impartial and transparent investigations into strikes that are potentially unlawful.

In 2013, Amnesty International USA released a groundbreaking report indicating that the U.S. had carried out unlawful drone killings in Pakistan, some of which could amount to war crimes or extrajudicial executions. The report, “’Will I be next?’ US drone strikes in Pakistan,” provided new evidence that through drone strikes, the United States killed people who posed no apparent threat to life, including a 68-year-old woman, Mamana Bibi, and a 14-year-old boy, Saleh Khan.