Two important new reports and a New York Times story written about a Pakistani town called Miram Shah have shed new light on civilian deaths from American drones in Pakistan and Yemen.
The first report, from Amnesty International, is called “Will I Be Next?” (The full report, seventy-four pages long, can be read here.) Investigators with Amnesty International spent nearly a year on the report, conducting sixty interviews with victims and survivors, eyewitnesses and others affected in North Waziristan and other parts of Pakistan. Though not comprehensive, the Amnesty International report is based on “detailed field research into nine of the 45 reported strikes that occurred in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal agency between January 2012 and August 2013.”
Despite enormous difficulties, including only limited cooperation from Pakistani authorities, Amnesty was able to document specific instances in which Pakistani civilians were killed and injured in drone attacks, including one in which eighteen male laborers, including a young boy, died in a “macabre scene of body parts and blood, panic and terror.” Citing US assurances that few civilians have been killed, Amnesty added:
Critics claim that drone strikes are much less discriminating, have resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths, some of which may amount to extrajudicial executions or war crimes, and foster animosity that increases recruitment into the very groups the USA seeks to eliminate.
And it said:
According to NGO and Pakistan government sources the USA has launched some 330 to 374 drone strikes in Pakistan between 2004 and September 2013. Amnesty International is not in a position to endorse these figures, but according to these sources, between 400 and 900 civilians have been killed in these attacks and at least 600 people seriously injured.
The Human Rights Watch report is called “Between A Drone and Al Qaeda: The Civilian Cost of US Targeted Killings in Yemen.” (You can read the full ninety-seven-page report here and a summary here.) The report “examines six US targeted killings in Yemen, one from 2009 and the rest from 2012-2013.” It says:
During six weeks in Yemen in 2012-2013, Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed more than 90 people about the strikes including witnesses, relatives of those killed, lawyers, human rights defenders, and government officials. Human Rights Watch reviewed evidence including ordnance and videos from attack sites. Security concerns prevented visits to four of the attack areas.
Among its conclusions:
The six strikes investigated by Human Rights Watch killed 82 people, at least 57 of them civilians. They include a US drone-assisted attack in September 2012 in Sarar, central Yemen, that unlawfully struck a passenger van, killing 12 civilians.