SF CHRP (San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines) is a San Francisco based human rights advocacy group. Latest news and views on human rights in the Philippines.

U.S. Drone Strikes Target Civilian Populations & Violate International Law

Protesters in Multan, Pakistan protest the use of drones in their country and the U.S. invasion of Pakistani airspace which have lead to a massive death toll of civilians (photo by S.S. Mirza/AFP).

In a joint-venture by New York University and Stanford University researchers have looked into the impacts of U.S. drone strikes within northwest Pakistan.  The report goes over the extremely high civilian death toll, the fact that when militants happen to be killed in drone strikes they are low ranking militants, the mental trauma suffered by the civilian population, and the immense infrastructure and economic damages wreaked by drone strikes.

The report is extremely valuable for human rights organizers and activists as it points out that the ongoing policy of drone attacks within Pakistan, Afghanistan, and parts of the Middle East are an ongoing and rolling international human rights violation which is illegal under U.S., international, and Pakistani law.  As the U.S. expands its drone program and its own justification this report highlights the human rights abuses laid upon the Pakistani population.  As for its legal justifications the report outlines:

By failing to account adequately for their activities in any public forum and even refusing to acknowledge publicly the existence of targeted killing operations for years or to explain sufficiently their legal basis, the US has failed to meet its international legal obligations to ensure trans­parency and accountability. In addition, while Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, which the US has implicitly invoked to justify strikes, requires that “measures taken by Members in the exercise of [their] right to self-defense . . . be immed­iately reported to the Security Council,” the US has yet to make such a report. Recent public disclosures and the occasional willingness by public officials to discuss the program publicly is welcome progress, but more is still required.

Assertions by Obama administration officials, as well as by scholars, that these operations comply with international standards are undermined by the total absence of any forms of credible transparency or verifiable accountability. The CIA’s internal control mechanisms, including the Inspector-General, have had no discernible impact; executive control mechanisms have either not been activated at all or have ignored the issue; congressional oversight has given a ‘free pass’ to the CIA; judicial review has been effectively precluded; and external oversight has been reduced to media coverage which is all too often dependent on information leaked by the CIA itself.

Some of the key points from the report are:

While civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians. In public statements, the US states that there have been “no” or “single digit” civilian casualties.” It is difficult to obtain data on strike casualties because of US efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability, compounded by the obstacles to independent investigation of strikes in North Waziristan.

 US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury. Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves.

This report casts doubt on the legality of strikes on individuals or groups not linked to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and who do not pose imminent threats to the US. The US government’s failure to ensure basic transparency and accountability in its targeted killing policies, to provide necessary details about its targeted killing program, or adequately to set out the legal factors involved in decisions to strike hinders necessary democratic debate about a key aspect of US foreign and national security policy. US practices may also facilitate recourse to lethal force around the globe by establishing dangerous precedents for other governments.

One of the other key fields of operation for U.S. drones has now become the Philippines, specifically Mindanao, where U.S. drones are being used to track the movements of rebels from the communist led New People’s Army and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.  There have also been reports of drone strikes in Mindanao.  This report brings up the disturbing fact that if drones are used more often in Mindanao civilian populations will be adversely affected and will more than likely be the main targets of drone strikes.



This entry was posted on September 28, 2012 by and tagged , , , .

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