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2013 | Amnesty International Report Will I be Next? US Drone Strikes in Pakistan

This Amnesty International report builds around 9 cases studies of US drone strikes in North Waziristan between January 2012 and August 2013 (chapter 3). North Waziristan is one of the seven tribal areas that together form the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), a loosely-governed territory in northwest Pakistan. FATA is considered to have been neglected and under-developed, and their residents are deprived of key human rights that should be protected under Pakistani and international law. Despite the US’s persistent refusal to acknowledge that it has carried out drone strikes in North Waziristan, allegedly that the US is behind the attacks nevertheless.

The drone bombings are being put in perspective first, by providing background information on the history of drone attacks in Pakistan, by giving insight in the activities of armed groups and Pakistan’s military forces in North Waziristan (chapter 2) and subsequently by setting out the applicable international legal framework (chapter 6). In addition, the report explores the US policy on drones (chapter 7) and the role of Pakistan and other states in the US drone attacks (chapter 8).

Chapter 5 sets out the victims’ access to justice and redress for their losses. The report observes that although both the US and Pakistan have obligations under international law to investigate the potential unlawful drone killings and to provide victims with adequate, effective and prompt reparation for the harm suffered, the survivors of drone attacks and the victims’ families barely have had any chance of securing justice. As far as Amnesty International is aware, the USA and Pakistan have neglected to systematically follow up cases of killings, injuries and other damages with victims to ensure they receive effective remedies. Amnesty advances that the US should offer adequate compensation to the harmed civilians even in circumstances that did not amount to violations of international law. However, it concludes in practice victims of US drone strikes in Pakistan have no accessible means or process for seeking redress from the US.

In the absence of redress mechanisms from US side, victims have –in vein- been forced to seek assistance from the Pakistani authorities. It is stated that Pakistani authorities have done very little to provide remedies and do not actively seek to contact victims of drone strikes. Instead, victims and their communities are expected to initiate any contact with the authorities. In some instances, victims simply did not seek compensation from the government because of the absence of any state authorities in their district or because they were not confident that the state would effectively investigate their claim. In other cases, victims and their relatives lodged formal requests for compensation, but said they had yet to receive adequate financial or other assistance.

Pakistani government officials for their part told Amnesty International that they had arranged to compensate individuals and communities affected by US drone strikes. However, in all of the cases investigated for this report, the victims and their communities said that they either did not receive compensation or other assistance from the Pakistan government or that it was inadequate.

The report inter alia recommends the US to ensure that victims of drone strikes and their family members have effective access to remedies (restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition ) even in situations that do not result from violations of applicable international law. Significantly, the USA is also called upon to accept judicial review of drone strikes. The Pakistani government is recommended to provide adequate access to justice and effective redress for victims of US drone strikes.