Killing of Pakistanis in US-led drone strikes may amount to war crimes or extrajudicial executions, according to a report released by the London-based right’s group on Tuesday.
Based on restricted and rare access to the region, the report titled “‘Will I be next?’ US drone strikes in Pakistan” documents nine strikes that occurred in 2012 and 2013 and the deaths resulting from these in Pakistan’s north-western areas, including the killing of Mamana Bibi, who was a 68-year-old grandmother and a 14-year-old boy.
Mamana Bibi’s grandchildren told the Amnesty International that she was killed by missile fire on October 24, 2012, as she was collecting vegetables in a family field in the North Waziristan tribal region, a major militancy infected area near the Afghan border.
Three of her grandchildren were also injured in the strike, as were several others who were nearby, the victims said.
An even deadlier incident noted by the report occurred in North Waziristan on July 6, 2012.
Witnesses said a volley of missiles hit a tent where a group of men had gathered for an evening meal after work, and then a second struck those who came to help the wounded, one of a number of attacks that have hit rescuers, the rights group said.
President Barack Obama said during a speech in May that the US did not conduct a drone strike unless there was “near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured”’.
But Amnesty said the US was so secretive about the programme that there was no way to tell what steps it took to prevent civilian casualties.
They say it has ”failed to commit to conduct investigations” into alleged deaths that have already occurred.
Pakistan has repeatedly stated that drone attacks are a violation of its sovereignty and has termed the attacks as counter-productive and a violation of international law.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also raised the drone issue at this year’s United Nations General Assembly session and sought an end to the attacks.
Moreover, Nawaz who is visiting the United States had said prior to his arrival there that he would take up the issue during his meeting on Wednesday with US President Barack Obama.
The issue has been raised on several platforms and the legality of drone strikes has also been previously questioned by the UN human rights chief, Amnesty International and other organisations.
Amnesty said it is concerned that the attacks outlined in the report and others may have resulted in unlawful killings that constitute extrajudicial executions or war crimes, even though the US insists the strikes are legal.
”We cannot find any justification for these killings. There are genuine threats to the USA and its allies in the region, and drone strikes may be lawful in some circumstances,” said Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International’s Pakistan researcher. ”But it is hard to believe that a group of laborers, or an elderly woman surrounded by her grandchildren, were endangering anyone at all, let alone posing an imminent threat to the United States.”
Amnesty called on the US to comply with its obligations under international law by investigating the killings documented in the report and providing victims with “full reparation”.
“Amnesty International is also extremely concerned about the failure of the Pakistani authorities to protect and enforce the rights of victims of drone strikes,” said the report. “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.”
Amnesty said victims they interviewed with no apparent connection to militant groups had either received no compensation or inadequate assistance from the Pakistani government.
None of the victims in the attack on the laborers received any compensation, the report added.