Amnesty International – Conclusion/Recommendations About US Drone Strikes in Pakistan


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“At least for the sake of human rights they should stop these drone strikes”

– Nabeel, resident of Zowi Sidgi who witnessed drone strike on
6 July 2012 that killed 18 and injured at least 22

Uncertainty remains about each of the drone attacks Amnesty International has examined in this report. Who were the intended targets? Why were they attacked? What legal framework was applied by those planning and executing the attacks? Most of this uncertainty arises from the US authorities’ deliberate policy of refusing to disclose information or even acknowledge responsibility for particular attacks.

What is certain from Amnesty International’s research, however, is that the cases in this report raise serious concerns that the USA has unlawfully killed people in drone strikes, and that such killings may amount in some cases to extrajudicial executions or war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law. Like other forces operating in the Tribal Areas, the USA appears to be exploiting the lawless and remote nature of the region to evade accountability for its violations.

Amnesty International recognizes that some US drone strikes may not violate human rights or international humanitarian law. But it is impossible to reach any firm assessment without a full disclosure of the facts surrounding individual attacks and their legal basis. The USA must provide evidence to prove that drone strikes comply with international human rights law and where applicable international humanitarian law, including in the specific cases documented in this report.

The USA’s assertion that it is engaged in an ongoing, global armed conflict against al-Qa’ida and associated forces has deeply troubling implications for human rights and the rule of law. It appears to be an attempt to license the use of intentional lethal force when it is not strictly unavoidable to protect life. Even where drone strikes are used in actual armed conflicts, statements by the US administration raise concerns as to whether basic concepts of international humanitarian law are being respected. Suggestions that affiliation with an armed group is a sufficient basis for being targeted, together with the lack of clarity on which groups are considered “associated forces” leave a very wide scope for targeting individuals on impermissible grounds. The practice of “signature strikes” appears prone to violating the presumption of civilian status. And secondary (or rescuer) strikes appear to violate the prohibition of targeting the injured, those who are hors de combat, and medical personnel.

US policy and practice on targeted killings and drones are not only of concern in their own right: they also set a dangerous precedent that other states may seek to exploit to avoid responsibility for their own unlawful killings. If unchecked there is a real risk that the continued use of drones by the USA and an increasing number of other states will further corrode the foundations of the international framework for the protection of human rights.

As documented in this report, scores of witnesses and relatives of victims told Amnesty International of killings that have left deep scars on a population already traumatized by deadly attacks by al-Qa’ida, the Taliban and Pakistan armed forces. As drone victim Mamana Bibi’s son Rafiqul Rehman told Amnesty International, “We pray peace can be restored to our country and people and end this mess and bloodshed but up til now there has been no end in sight.” As a ubiquitous presence in the skies of North Waziristan, drones have created significant fear among the population. The people of North Waziristan also face significant threats for speaking out about drone strikes, whether they kill members of armed groups or residents not engaged in attacks against the USA or its allies. The absence of any formal, public recognition of strikes, or avenues for victims to access justice or effective reparation further compound the suffering of the victims and their families. It also sends them the signal that the USA considers itself above the rule of law and accountability.

The Pakistani authorities have also failed to protect the rights of those affected by drones, be it their right to life, or access to justice and effective reparation. While the government of Pakistan publicly opposes the US drone program, Amnesty International is concerned that elements of the state or individual officials continue to cooperate in strikes that may constitute human rights violations.

The Pakistani authorities have a poor record of providing medical and other assistance to victims and their communities. There is little transparency about how the Pakistani authorities respond to drone strikes. Evidence suggests that the state closely monitors drone strikes, despite direct claims to Amnesty International that they are unable to do this. Moreover, victims and affected communities say that the authorities do not proactively seek to assist them following strikes, but expect the victims to initiate contact.

The authorities of all states who assist the USA in carrying out drone strikes in Pakistan, including those of Pakistan, must carry out independent and impartial investigations into any organs or officials implicated in involvement in US drone strikes that may constitute human rights violations. Amnesty International also calls on all states, including Australia, Germany and the UK, to refrain from participating in any way in US drone strikes conducted in violation of the relevant rules of international law and instead to urge compliance by the USA with its international obligations.

The long-suffering people of North Waziristan and the rest of the Tribal Areas deserve to enjoy the same human rights as everyone else, not least the right to life – the foundation for all human rights. By hiding behind arguments of secrecy and exploiting the difficulty in confirming details of specific strikes due to the lawlessness, remoteness and insecurity of Pakistan’s Tribal Areas, the USA is contributing to the litany of violations and abuses endured by a population that has been both neglected and assaulted by their own state and victimized by al-Qa’ida, the Taliban and other armed groups. The ultimate tragedy is that the drone aircraft the USA deploys over Pakistan now instill the same kind of fear in the people of the Tribal Areas that was once associated only with al-Qai’da and the Taliban. The USA can and must alleviate their suffering by opening up the secretive and unaccountable drone program to public scrutiny and ensuring any individuals responsible for human rights violations are brought to justice in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty. The USA and Pakistan must also ensure the victims of violations documented in this report have access to justice and redress.


To the government of the United States of America

- Publicly disclose information about the facts and legal basis for the killing of Mamana Bibi on 24 October 2012, the killing of 18 laborers on 6 July 2012, the killing of second responders on 4 June and 23 July 2012, and all other cases documented in this report (see Appendix for full list of cases).

- Publicly disclose whether there has been any investigation into the killing of Mamana Bibi, the killing of 18 laborers, the killing of second responders, or any of the other cases documented in this report. Where such investigations have taken place, publicly disclose the nature of these investigations and provide a summary of the findings.

- Ensure prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into all cases where there are reasonable grounds to believe that drone strikes resulted in unlawful killings. This must include all attacks in which civilians are reported to have been killed or injured.

- Where there is sufficient admissible evidence, bring those responsible to justice in public and fair trials without recourse to the death penalty.

- Ensure that victims of unlawful drone strikes, including family members of victims of unlawful killings, have effective access to remedies, including in the form of restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition.

- Offer compensation to families of civilians killed or injured even when investigations suggest that, in a particular killing of civilians, casualties did not result from violations of applicable international law.

- Disclose the legal and factual criteria for identification of targets, including for placement on so-called “kill lists”, and criteria for so-called “personality strikes,” “signature strikes” or Terrorist Attack Disruption Strikes (TADS).

- Make public memoranda from the Department of Justice, Central Intelligence Agency and Department of Defense that reflect the US administration’s interpretation of operative law and policy concerning the lethal targeting of any person.

- Disclose the criteria used to determine civilian and “militant” or “combatant” status.

- Disclose available information on the number of people killed or injured in drone strikes in Pakistan, including the number categorized as “civilians,” “militants” or “combatants”.

- Disclose what “signatures” are considered sufficient to authorize a signature strike and in what circumstances.

- Publicly explain the rules and procedures in place for preventing unintended and potentially unlawful deaths and injuries from drone strikes

- Clarify and disclose standards for post-strike procedures to investigate the legality of strikes, and ensure US assessments and investigations do not presumptively categorize individuals killed or injured as “militants” or combatants;

- Ensure that all agencies involved in the drone program cooperate fully with investigations by Congress and issue a de-classified version of any response to congressional investigations.

- Establish or assign a dedicated investigative entity – for example, an inspector general or special prosecutor – to independently, impartially and fully investigate all potentially unlawful deaths caused by drone strikes, including those raised in this report. The unit should have access to classified information, and adequate independence and authority, including the ability to compel witnesses and evidence, and to report publicly on their findings.

- Accept judicial review of drone strikes and ensure that mechanisms for victims of potentially unlawful deaths or their families to obtain redress, including compensation and legal remedies, are available and effective.

- Cease to invoke the “global war” doctrine, and fully recognize and affirm the applicability of international human rights obligations to all US counter-terrorism measures, including those outside US territory.

- Ensure that any use of lethal force outside of specific recognized zones of armed conflict complies with international human rights standards, including as set out in UN law enforcement standards.

- Ensure that any use of lethal force within specific recognized zones of armed conflict and connected to the conflict taking place in that zone complies fully with the USA’s obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, including the rule that if there is doubt as to whether a person is a civilian protected against attack, the person is to be considered a civilian protected against attack.

- Review the practice of “signature strikes” and ensure that they are only utilized in circumstances that conform to international law, including the presumption of civilian status.

- Cease so-called “rescuer attacks”

- Take measures to protect informants in Pakistan at risk of attack from armed groups and Pakistani forces.

To the government of Pakistan:

- Provide adequate access to justice and reparations for victims of US drone strikes and seek reparations and other remedies from the US authorities.

- Provide adequate access to justice and reparations for victims of attacks by Pakistan armed forces and ensure independent and impartial investigations into attacks that violate human rights. Where there is sufficient admissible evidence, bring to justice in public and fair trials without recourse to the death penalty the persons responsible for unlawful killings resulting from those attacks.

- Provide victims of US drone strikes and attacks by the Pakistan armed forces or armed groups with prompt medical treatment and other remedial assistance.

- Ensure independent and impartial investigations into US drone strikes that violate human rights, including whether Pakistani officials were involved. Where there is sufficient admissible evidence, bring to justice in public and fair trials without recourse to the death penalty the persons responsible for unlawful killings resulting from those strikes. Ensure that effective redress is provided for the harm caused by these strikes.

- Publicly disclose information on all US drone strikes that the Pakistani authorities are aware of, including casualties and all assistance provided to victims.

- Facilitate access for independent human rights investigators to North Waziristan and the rest of the Tribal Areas to document cases of killings by US drone strikes and other possible human rights violations by Pakistani forces and armed groups.

- Formally extend the jurisdiction of Pakistan’s High Courts and parliament to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas by act of parliament or executive order from the President

To the international community including the UN, other states and intergovernmental organizations:

- Oppose unlawful US policies and practices on the deliberate use of lethal force against terrorism suspects, and urge the USA to take the measures outlined above. States should officially protest and pursue remedies under international law when lethal force is unlawfully used by the USA or other states, in violation of the right to life, against individuals on their territory or against their nationals.

- Refrain from participating in any way in US drone strikes, including by sharing intelligence or facilities, conducted in violation of international human rights law and, where applicable in specific zones of armed conflict, international humanitarian law.

- Refuse to permit the international transfer of drone weapons in circumstances where there is a substantial risk the recipients would use the weapons to commit serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law.

To the Taliban and other armed groups in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas:

- Allow independent human rights investigations into US drone strikes.

- Cease unlawful killings, torture, and other abuses against individuals, including those accused of providing information to the USA or Pakistan for drone strikes.

- Cease threats of violence against victims of US drone strikes and other violence who speak out about their situation.

- Avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas.

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