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2014 | Open Society Foundations Report After the Dead are Counted: U.S. and Pakistani Responsibilities to Victims of Drone Strikes

This work published by Open Society Foundations addresses U.S. and Pakistani responsibilities to victims of drone strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in North Pakistan. It is based on interviews with 96 witnesses and relatives of victims of drone strikes as well as 18 current and former U.S. and Pakistani government officials and documents 9 credible cases of civilian harm caused by US drone strikes. Furthermore, it examines the broader political and legal context in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and both US and Pakistani responses to these victims to date. Analysis of these cases demonstrates the urgent need for more transparent, rigorous means and methods of assessing civilian harm, public investigation of the claims of civilian casualties, and the creation of systematic mechanisms to provide redress to victims.

The report submits that the United States has consistently failed to account for and provide redress and compensation for civilian harm from the drone bombings in FATA. But Pakistan too could be doing more to protect the rights of individuals affected, by properly investigating civilian harm and implementing a policy that provides compensation or assistance to victims of drone strikes. Transparency, accountability and mechanisms to provide redress, however, remain almost non-existent: according to interviews with victims and government officials, Pakistan has not provided victims of U.S. drone strikes with any compensation or redress for their losses, nor has it worked with the U.S. government to establish a suitable mechanism to provide such assistance.

However, there are some positive initiatives by Pakistani provincial governments trying to establish mechanisms to assess civilian harm and provide assistance. The Balochistan Civilian Victims of Terrorism (Relief and Rehabilitation) Act 2014, passed by the Balochistan government in 2014 is mentioned as an example thereof. The Act provides for the establishment of a fund for the civilian victims of conflict and terrorism, standardizes compensation and rehabilitation policies, and requires government officials to gather information regarding civilian victims and provide compensation within specified timetables.

Finally, the report provides recommendations to both the U.S. and Pakistani governments. Inter alia, it recommends that the Pakistani government:

  • create a mechanism to provide compensation, relief, and rehabilitation to civilians killed or injured by U.S. drone strikes
  • make funds available for investigations of civilian harm and for compensation and assistance for victims of U.S. drone attacks
  • ensure that the victims in FATA have access to justice and effective legal remedies for any violation of applicable international human rights or international humanitarian law
  • seek appropriate reparations from the U.S. government, on behalf of victims of unlawful drone attacks, and request the U.S. authorities to share information related to civilian casualties of U.S. drone strikes, enabling proper assessment of civilian harm and the provision of appropriate redress.

The authors recommend that the United States ensure effective investigations, registration of civilian harm and redress.