Rights Groups: Civilian Casualties In Drone Strikes Soar, Administration Officials Guilty Of War Crimes


Reports released Tuesday by two human rights groups conclude that U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen are responsible for dozens of civilian deaths that officials in the United States have failed to acknowledge. The reports indicate that top Barack Obama Administration officials are responsible for strikes that have resulted in unlawful killings, which may constitute extrajudicial executions or war crimes.

A report compiled by Amnesty International, titled “Will I Be Next?,” examines nine of the 45 drone strikes reported between January 2012 and August 2013 in North Waziristan, where the U.S. drone campaign has been most active.

According to the report, no fewer than 29 civilians were killed in the strikes it examined. Many of the civilian casualties detailed in the report are detailed by interviews with victims of and witnesses to the U.S. strikes.

The report tells of 68-year-old Mamana Bibi, who was killed by a drone strike in the region as she tended her crops last October:

“She was standing in our family fields gathering okra to cook that evening,” recalled Zubair Rehman, one of Mamana Bibi’s grandsons, who was about 119ft away also working in the fields at the time. Mamana Bibi’s three granddaughters: Nabeela (aged eight), Asma (aged seven) and Naeema (aged five) were also in the field, around 115 and 92ft away from their grandmother to the north and south respectively. Around 92ft to the south, another of Mamana Bibi’s grandsons, 15-year-old Rehman Saeed, was walking home from school with his friend, Shahidullah, also aged 15.

Accustomed to seeing drones overhead, Mamana Bibi and her grandchildren continued their daily routine. “The drone planes were flying over our village all day and night, flying in pairs sometimes three together. We had grown used to them flying over our village all the time,” Zubair Rehman continued. “I was watering our animals and my brother was harvesting maize crop,” said Nabeela.

Then, before her family’s eyes, Mamana Bibi was blown into pieces by at least two Hellfire missiles fired concurrently from a US drone aircraft.

“There was a very bad smell and the area was full of smoke and dust. I couldn’t breathe properly for several minutes,” said Zubair. “The explosion was very close to us. It was very strong, it took me into the air and pushed me onto the ground,” added Nabeela. She later ventured to where her grandmother had been picking vegetables earlier in the day. “I saw her shoes. We found her mutilated body a short time afterwards,” recalled Nabeela. “It had been thrown quite a long distance away by the blast and it was in pieces. We collected as many different parts from the field and wrapped them in a cloth.”

The report goes on to note that “it is not possible for Amnesty International to fully assess the reasons behind the killing of Mamana Bibi without further information from the US authorities.” There is some speculation from Pakistani intelligence sources that the area was targeted after a Taliban fighter used a satellite phone nearby, though reports indicate that the nearest roads — where the insurgent would have been — are almost 1,000 feet away from where Bibi was killed. Furthermore, just more than a year before that particular strike, current CIA Director John Brennan had proclaimed that “there hasn’t been a single collateral death [in drone strikes] because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we’ve been able to develop.”

Human Rights Watch’s 106-page report, “Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda: The Civilian Cost of US Targeted Killings in Yemen,” examines six U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, one from 2009 and the rest from 2012-2013. The report charges that two of the drone strikes examined killed civilians indiscriminately in clear violation of the laws of war. The other strikes, according to the report, targeted people who were not legitimate military targets and caused avoidable civilian deaths. The Human Rights Watch report also provides grisly details and firsthand accounts of botched U.S. drone operations in the region in which it says at least 57 of the 82 people killed were civilians. One 2009 attack noted in the report claimed the lives of 41 civilians.

Letta Tayler, senior terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch and the author of the report, said in releasing her findings, “Yemenis told us that these strikes make them fear the U.S. as much as they fear Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.”

Similarly, the Amnesty International report reads, “The ultimate tragedy is that the drone aircraft the US deploys over Pakistan now instill the same kind of fear in the people of the Tribal Areas that was once associated only with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.”

The result, both groups agree, is not the surgical elimination of possible terror threats to the United States, claiming that the U.S.’s disregard for civilians in the drone-targeted regions is actually breeding anti-American sentiment and creating more extremists with a hatred of the West.

The Federal government only rarely acknowledges the details of its targeted drone killings, except to tout them as a powerful anti-terror asset, and has been even further reluctant to acknowledge civilian casualties resulting from the drone program.

In May, Obama provided legal rationale for the U.S. drone program and assured an audience assembled at the National Defense University that every precaution is taken to limit civilian casualties.

“We act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people,” he said. “Before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured — the highest standard we can set.”

But Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International both lament that the President’s words simply don’t match the U.S. government’s action.

“… US government interpretation appeared to allow the killing of an individual in the absence of any intelligence about a specific planned attack, or the individual’s personal involvement in planning or carrying out a specific attack,” the Amnesty International report charges. “It stretched the concept of imminence well beyond its ordinary meaning and established interpretations under the existing international law on the right of states to self-defense.”

Both human rights groups contend that the Administration should take immediate steps to increase transparency surrounding the drone program to provide a proper accounting of civilian casualties and proper human rights oversight.

“The US must explain why these people have been killed — people who are clearly civilians. It must provide justice to these people, compensation and it must investigate those responsible for those killings,” said Mustafa Qadri, the researcher who wrote the Amnesty International report.

Recent rhetoric from Obama hints that the Administration is planning to slowly shift counterterrorism efforts away from drone strikes in favor of other tactics in coming years — mostly due to the President’s unwillingness to commit to new legal guidelines limiting the government’s drone usage.

But, even if the a government shift away from its heavy reliance on drones is coming, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are jointly calling on Congress to fully investigate the cases documented in the reports, as well as other potentially unlawful strikes, and to disclose its findings to the public. The result of such an investigation could have major implications for top U.S. officials, as many human rights observers are convinced that major war crimes would come to light.

Read the Amnesty International report here and the Human Rights Watch report here.

Personal Liberty

Sam Rolley

Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After covering community news and politics, Rolley took a position at Personal Liberty Media Group where could better hone his focus on his true passions: national politics and liberty issues. In his daily columns and reports, Rolley works to help readers understand which lies are perpetuated by the mainstream media and to stay on top of issues ignored by more conventional media outlets.

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  • Harold Olsen

    Amnesty International is not the peace loving group they pretend to be. Maybe a lot of civilians are being killed by US drones. I don’t know. I won’t take their word for anything. But this group condemns every little thing the US does but refuses to condemn attacks by Muslim terrorists or the suicide bombers who kill innocent people in Israel. They are a pro-terrorist group.

    • Stuffy Schuber

      Yes, they have been biased over the years against USA, but they are also many times correct…don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

  • KG

    May be, under the guises of the Author we should revisit those involved with the bombing of Dresden, Germany in WW2. That was an action that seemed unnecessary militarily, just as these Drone strikes are seen by many so-called Republican/Libertarian/Nazis – the same ones who started the whole drone strike thing. I imagine that in WW2, the use of unrestricted Air strikes on primarily civilian targets, that is Nazi ‘civilians’ like the ‘terrorist’ civilians in Pakistan, was seen in the same moral light as the ‘surgical’ strikes that Drones seem to be capable of today.

    The worse thing that happened to America in the last 25 years was the so called “victory” we had over Saddam Husein in the first gulf war. All of the so-called ‘peace loving’ conservatives were convinced that the stigmatization of American involvement in military action was over. The “Vietnam Syndrome” disappeared along with Saddam’s Russian tanks. America could, at last, reassert its self in military activity. Just as Colonel Kurtz found a way to make war into his image, so has the American pro-military action people. The temptation to use a device that removes all human element to killing people has to be almost Godlike. And to wage war by computer screen – what person who has ever played Defender as a young person has never dreamed of the day they could ‘smart bomb’ a whole screen full of invaders!

    • FreedomFighter

      The communists leadership has brutally murdered there own people, killing 100s of millions, are your upset at the communists countries?
      Laus Deo
      Semper FI

    • https://me.yahoo.com/a/mV68cqE1kcgXXxj4WcAFaI0r8HJz#39c03 Brian Perkins, Sr.

      “Funny” you should mention Dresden. Just as Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended WWII in Japan, so Dresden was significant in ENDING the multi-million human slaughter in Europe. Have you heard any warlike talk out of Germany or Japan recently ? There are no “civilians” in war. Given enough of the consequences of the terrorist activities of their friends, families and neighbors, maybe mature elements in these countries will get a grip, take control and join the 21st century community of nations just as happened in Germany and Japan nearly 70 years ago. ……….. Semper Fi.

    • Liz

      Communist’s have always killed or persecuted their own as well as others to prove a point and will continue to do so. Why are you blaming the Republicans when the Democrats are in charge? This Administration has been ordering these strikes and it is not run by Republicans, try putting your outrage where it belongs. Just wait until O’Bama decides to put us in line and uses Drones on us!

    • Dooby DoucheBag

      There is nothing wrong with using drones, it is how we are using them…I’ve heard this same blather from you before, you are a phony & your views are moronic!!

    • Dooby Dubinsky The Douche

      It is not use of drones that is evil, but how they are being used…as usual you are a phony, intellectually dishonest & a loser in any rational debate!

    • Pretty PoleCat Dancer

      I’ve heard this same blather fro you before…It is not use of drones that is evil, but how they are being used…as usual you are a phony, intellectually dishonest & a loser in any rational debate!

    • Robert Messmer

      Wow you and Dr. Ben Carson both agree that 9/11 wasn’t the worst thing to happen to America–you in the last 25 years and him since slavery.

      • KG

        The events of 9-11-2001 were terrible enough. But what was the worse part was how the Republican/Conservative/Libertarian/Nazis reacted to it. Taking care of the war wounded from the Iraqi misadventure will be a strain on our economy for at least a century.

  • FreedomFighter

    “A report compiled by Amnesty International, titled “Will I Be Next?,” examines nine of the 45 drone strikes reported between January 2012 and August 2013 in North Waziristan, where the U.S. drone campaign has been most active.”
    Although a tragedy that so called “non-combatants” are killed in a drone strike, I don’t think we should change drone strike policy. Drone strikes are effective, save American lives, strikes terror into the hearts of our enemy and is cost effective. Assuming that the strikes targeted actual enemy’s all those associated with that enemy are giving aide and comfort to the enemy. In addition, in Pakistan public schools they teach and encourage the killing of Christians, Jews, and other non-Muslims.
    This is all part of the plan to create WWIII (see writings of Albert Pike) create the Islamic Caliphate, insure they hate (drone strikes), insure we hate them, foment the war…
    Laus DeoSemper FI

    • Bob666

      Yo FF,

      “This is all part of the plan to create WWIII (see writings of Albert Pike)”

      Can you provide a source for this?

      • FreedomFighter

        Yo bobby, look it up you will find it.
        Laus Deo
        Semper FI

        • Bob666

          French Fry
          As I suspected-all mouth, no substance.

    • StinkBomb Jones

      I usually agree with you FF, but not here!! First of all, our actions are creating more hatred of USA & more Jihadists wanting to kill us! We are no safer…these are without a doubt war crimes, not because we are using drones, but how we are….Bush: 43 strikes in 8 years, using them the way they were supposed to be used, surgically, sparingly & upon clandestine hideouts …Obummer: reveling in his KILL LIST, using then like a fly swatter or machine gun with over 500 in less than 5 years, illegally changing the definition of an enemy combatant to “any male in a targeted area, even if there is no evidence they are engaging in terrorist activities”, thus drones in more open spaces like bazaars, coffee houses, etc..& way more innocents being murdered. Also the use of the horrific
      “Double Tap”. a 2nd drone strike shortly after first as rescue workers are trying to save lives…UNCONSCIONABLE!!

      BTW, if this was GOP prez doing this, the LIBS & their lapdogs in MSM would be screaming for his head on a platter & for ICC to prosecute them!!

      • FreedomFighter

        See writings of Albert Pike WWIII, it will explain motivation and goals of the world elites. You think a drone strike is unconscionable wait till you find out why they are doing it, while at the same time creating a Islamic Caliphate.
        Laus Deo
        Semper FI

        • StinkBomb Jones

          I don’t doubt the motivations, but if you know the elites are behind it, why are you for them?

          • FreedomFighter

            Who else has the money and power to pull it off? Presumption wrong.
            Laus Deo
            Semper FI

      • Robert Messmer

        Surprised that the ACLU didn’t take the new definition to court. After all it is sexually biased against women since it does not include them in the definition. Equal treatment for all the sexes.

        • Judge Jehosophat

          Good point, especially because some women have become terrorists in recent years…hey, if they did include that definition Obummer could’ve killed more people!

    • Mama Maria Lopez McGrady

      Ron Paul was right years ago & he still is…we have no business there, doing these horrific things!!

      • FreedomFighter

        I agree we should not be there, since we are, and Obama wants even more…drones save American lives. (see writings of Albert Pike WWIII)
        Laus Deo
        Semper FI

        • Mama Maria Lopez McGrady

          Poppycock…..Paul’s way, not even being there will save more American lives!

    • TML

      You are no freedom fighter. You’re warhawk neocon that obviously supports war and terrorism, so long as we are the ones committing the acts of terror. Are we even at war with Yemen? No. Apparently you think we have the right to bomb anywhere in the world, out of your mere prejudice against Muslims in general, so long as our troops aren’t involved and instead send in remote control planes, like wussies, to fire even on civilians in the name of fighting a war on terror. Until this day, I never realized how hypocritically pathetic you are. Like KG supporting such things simply because it’s Obama doing it.

      • CatFish CrawDaddy-O

        I’m with you here, TML…….but, Iran still SUX!!

        • TML


    • TML

      “See writings of Albert Pike WWIII”

      “If you’ve bared it until the end, perhaps you’re disappointed to have found nothing about a prediction of three world wars, Communism, Nazism and Zionist Illuminati – or anything of the sort…. …Instead, what it truly represents is the scurrilous fantasies, and militant anti-Catholicism of its author: the impostor Leo Taxil aka Dr. Bataille, who profited handsomely while having a million laughs at the expense of both Christians and Masons; who confessed that his entire corpus of anti-Masonic works – spanning twelve years and representing thousands of pages (including the translated excerpt above) – were a complete and utter fraud; a colossal yet ridiculously farcical hoax.

      It is enough having shown that the so-called Pike/Mazzini letter came from the Taxil hoax and to have provided a full translation of it.”


      • FreedomFighter

        Brave new World was a fake too.
        Laus Deo
        Semper FI

      • Bob666

        Thanks TML,
        I suspected that “Freedom Fighter” had cut and run when it came to providing facts.

        That looks like an interesting read-I look forward to having a good laugh.

      • FreedomFighter

        Actually your link proves my assertion, the only confusion is the real author…
        Laus Deo
        Semper FI

        • TML

          Dare I ask you to show how it proves your ‘assertion’?

          • Bob666

            yea, I am waiting for that made up answer as well

  • William James Ward

    It is obvious that the only thing we can do is send Obama to
    the Hague for trial as a war criminal. That he is a criminal of
    many types is irrelevant, the man is a bomb, and international
    actor and fraud, send him away today, now for self preservation,
    please, if only for what gives you a reason for living…….William

  • patsch13

    It is pathetic that Barry the Drone King does so much behind the scenes, through Executive Orders and covert operations–while at the same time he purges the highest ranking military officers across all branches of service. He must go. The sooner the better.

  • Michael Andries

    Simple solution: Do not stand by an enemy of the United States.