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2015 | Fire From the Blue Sky - Drone Attack Victims From Pakistan, Their Voice and Their Struggle, M. Shahzad Akbar & U. Gilani in Sur International Journal on Human Rights, SUR No. 22- December 2015

In the period 2004-2015, a conservative toll of counts 965 civilians who have been killed by United States drone strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in North West Pakistan. In addition, thousands have been injured or have lost their property or means to a living. Given their massive numbers, these civilian victims cannot plausibly be classified simply as ‘collateral damage’, yet no responsibility has been attributed to those who inflicted the harm. In presenting the narratives of three Pakistani drone victims, this report aims to prompt a public debate on drone strikes and show their struggle for justice.

The report brings three stories. (i) Following a drone strike that killed his son and a brother in 2009, Karim Khan took legal action in Pakistan, all the way up to the Islamabad High Court that ordered the commencement of criminal proceedings against the accused CIA personnel. (ii) Noor Khan, whose father was killed in a CIA operated drone in 2011, tells how he has been fighting for justice in Pakistan and the United Kingdom. In 2012, the Peshawar  High  Court ruled in his favour, holding that drone attacks  are  illegal  under  international  law. While the judgment remains largely unimplemented by the executive branch  of  government,  his  litigation has been successful in terms of generating attention for the human cost resulting from unlawful drone attacks, in a court of law. (iii) Nabila ur-Rehman was affected by a drone bomb in 2012, and has been exposing the injustice attached to the drone strikes by generating media attention, by advocacy and lobbying, efforts supplementing (strategic) litigation to bring about change.

The report concludes that States – both conducting and being affected by drones – have a legal obligation to put in place transparency and accountability mechanisms and may be liable for deploying armed drones in breach of international law.