Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Tuesday urged the US to conduct a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into allegations that Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] drone strikes have resulted in recent civilian casualties in Pakistan. AI reviewed [report, PDF] more than 50 reported US drone strikes in Pakistan from January 2012 to August 2013, many of which resulted in multiple civilian deaths. AI asserts that, because the US government refuses to provide "accurate information" with respect to specific CIA drone strikes, and its drone program in general, certain CIA operatives may be guilty of arbitrary and extrajudicial executions in violation of international law. According to AI, the US government is therefore obligated by international law to fully investigate the each strike to ensure that guilty parties are brought to justice in fair trials. AI claims:
President Barack Obama and other US officials have stated that the USA does not conduct a strike unless there is "near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured." However, the USA has never described what post-strike investigation standards, protocols and mechanisms exist to systematically verify compliance with this policy standard. It has also failed to commit to conducting investigations into credible allegations of potentially unlawful deaths from Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) drone strikes, in line with its obligations under international law.In addition, AI urges Pakistani authorities to take steps beyond publicly condemning the US drone program. Specifically AI calls on Pakistan to demand independent and impartial investigations into US drone strikes that may violate human rights, including of any Pakistani officials involved in potential violations.
The growing use of unmanned aerial surveillance and combat capable aircraft, otherwise known as drones [JURIST backgrounder], has drawn the attention of the world. In October the UN released a report [JURIST report] indicating that the US is under-reporting the number of civilian deaths resulting from anti-terrorism drone strikes. Also in October media outlets reported [JURIST report] that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been heavily involved in the US government's targeted killing program through collaborations with the CIA in the use of drone strikes against terrorists abroad. In August UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon insisted [JURIST report] that US drone strikes must operate within international law. Also in August JURIST Guest Columnists Douglas Cox and Ramzi Kassem, Associate Professors at the City University of New York School of Law argued [JURIST op-ed] that the National Security Council needs to return to previous levels of oversight and legal restriction, especially with respect to drone killing accountability. In January JURIST Contributing Editor Gabor Rona, International Legal Director of Human Rights First, argued [JURIST op-ed] that the Obama administration must place an enhanced focus on disclosing its drone policy.